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Why Indians in the UK are mobilising against the Modi government

After becoming the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, Narendra Modi visited the United Kingdom in 2015, and what a welcome he received! Almost 60,000 British Indians from 450 community groups attended his rockstar reception at the Wembley stadium. About 800 performers participated in the free concert that preceded Modi’s speech, and he was introduced on stage by the then British Prime Minister David Cameron. Since his visit coincided with the Diwali festival, it also featured what has been billed as one of London’s largest ever firework displays. How did Modi, a man on the banned-visa list of the United Kingdom for his alleged direct connection to the 2002 Gujarat pogrom in which about 1000 Muslims were murdered, achieve such celebrity status? The Telegraph (India), Adrija Dey, Chandni Chawla and Siddharth Chakravarty, 14 March 2019

The concert was not an official event organised by the British Government; it was privately organised by a non-profit company called Europe India Forum, formed for Modi’s visit to the UK by multimillionaire British-Indian industrialist Nat Puri. The fund not only received thousands of pounds worth of corporate funding but also individual contributions in various capacities.

Modi visited London again in 2018. Hundreds again flooded the streets to welcome him, and performances were organised by various sections of the diaspora community. Blinded by Modi’s neoliberal development agenda, the upper-class, upper-caste diaspora chanted Modi’s praises. Hand-picked Modi supporters were allowed in his town-hall discussion and while both the right-wing and liberal media from India were present, most chose to completely ignore the protests around his visit, projecting a perfect image of Modi to the larger public imagination.

To Modi and his supporters, his international reputation matters. Till about end of 2018, Modi visited over 55 countries in 48 foreign trips since taking over as prime minister in May 2014. The government incurred a total cost of about Rs 2,021 crore for these trips.

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