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When Prime Minister Narendra Modi Faced Tough Questions from the British Press

By Café Dissensus

After the Bihar Election results, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s test of patience and endurance seems to continue unabated during his trip to the UK.

The UK-based Awaaz Network, along with a number of other organizations – South Asia Solidarity Group, Sikh Federation UK, Dalit Solidarity Network UK, Indian Muslim Federation, Indian Workers Association – are already protesting against Modi’s human rights record and rising intolerance in India.
Modi 1

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12: A protestor demonstrating against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a placards outside Downing Street on November 12, 2015 in London, England. Modi began a three-day visit to the United Kingdom today which will be marked by a speech to Parliament a meeting with the Queen and an address to crowds at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

On 8 November, as a mark of protest against Modi’s visit, the Awaaz Network had projected the words, ‘Modi not Welcome’ on the side of the British Parliament. It shows an image of Modi wielding a sword in front of the OM sign, which slowly turned into a swastika, the Nazi symbol.

modi-not-welcome-british-parliament

Meanwhile, the British writers wrote an open letter to the British Prime Minister in which they urged David Cameron to safeguard freedom of expression in India. They wrote about “the rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence towards critical voices who challenge orthodoxy or fundamentalism in India.”

While Indian journalists never had a proper chance or were unwilling to ask Modi difficult questions about his human rights record, their British counterparts didn’t shy away from asking him about growing intolerance in India. Here are two questions that were asked during his joint press conference with British Prime Minister, David Cameron:

The BBC Question: “Prime minister Modi, India is becoming an increasingly intolerant place. Why?”

Narendra Modi: “India is the land of Buddha, India is the land of Gandhi. And that is why it is in our values that whenever someone goes against the fundamental beliefs of the society, India will not accept it. That is why any incident in any corner of India – whether is it one incident, two or three – in a nation of 1.25 crore Indians, whether one incident is important or not, that does not matter to us. Every incident is grave for us. We do not tolerate it under any circumstances. The law takes strict action against this and it will continue to do so. And India is a vibrant democracy with a constitution that gives even the most ordinary citizen security of every kind, and is committed to protecting their thoughts. And we are committed to this.” (Source: Here)

The Guardian Question: And also prime minister Modi can I ask you, tomorrow night you will obviously have a rapturous reception at Wembley Stadium. There are a number of protesters out today who are saying, and I am wondering what you say to them, that given your record as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, you do not deserve the respect that would normally be accorded to the leader of the world’s largest democracy?

Narendra Modi: Firstly, to set the record straight, I want to inform you that I had come to the UK in 2003 and was welcomed and respected… and attended events here. The UK has never stopped me from coming here. There was no restriction ever. I could not come due to time constraints, and that’s a different thing. So you have wrong perception, please correct it. (Source: Here)

Predictably, the easy questions for Modi came from the Indian journalists.

Despite the apparent unease, Modi will address a sold-out crowd of Indian diaspora in England at Wembley Stadium, which will give him another chance to demonstrate his charisma and wallow in chest-thumping nationalism. Pankaj Mishra wrote scathingly about such appearances during foreign visits: “Many non-resident Indians, denied full dignity in the white man’s world, also hitched their low self-esteem to Modi’s hot-air balloons about the coming Indian Century.”

While such ostentatious performances continue abroad, the Modi aura has already taken a great deal of beating after the Bihar Elections. To the extent that the British Press is now able to pose such bold questions to an elected Indian Prime Minister.

Narendra Modi-David Cameron Joint Press Conference

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

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