India’s Prime Minster Narendra Modi tells crowd at Wembley Stadium: “We Indians love the British”
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of protesters held placards and chanted slogans as thousands gathered at a mass rally to welcome controversial Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Wembley Stadium.
There were scuffles as campaign groups protesting against alleged human rights abuses in India clashed with Modi supporters as 60,000 people poured into the stadium for the UKWelcomesModi event which featured speeches from the Indian PM and Prime Minister David Cameron.
The four-hour spectacle, marking the end of the largest ever reception of a foreign head of government in the UK- was aimed at forging trade deals and diplomatic ties worth billions under the slogan “Two great nations. One glorious future.”
But as supporters waving Indian flags and chanting “Modi! Modi!” filed into the venue, campaign group Sikh Lives,Matter held placards decrying violent oppression of religious and ethnic minorities in India.
Kulvinder Singh, 30, who led the Sikh Lives Matter protest said: “Modi and his BJP party believe in a caste system that oppresses the Punjabi community, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians. “He considers them beneath Hindus; this system is 3,000 years old and those living with it know he’s got blood on his hands.”
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But attendees at the rally, many of whom are first and second generation members of the Indian Diaspora community, rejected the protestor’s claims of aggressive Hindu nationalism.
Modi supporter Dinesh Patrel, 60, who was involved in the tense stand-off said: “We trust Modi. He’s doing a very good job for India; he’s chosen to come to London and it’s important for me to be here and for the next generation to thank him.”
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There were also small-scale demonstrations led by Krishna Holluri, 31, from Kenton, calling for Modi to fulfil his 2014 election promise to grant special status to the Andhra Pradesh region of India.
Campaign groups also called for action on sexual violence against women and held a rally attended by former Respect MP George Galloway in support of independence for the disputed Kashmir region.
Chinmay Raval, who attended the rally with his brother Shany from Kingsbury and his three-year-old daughter Meera said: “We are here for our political ideals. My daughter is one of Modi’s biggest fans- she even recognizes him on the news.”
Shany Raval added: “This visit has really brightened up our Diwali. It is very special for us to have this visit and we are proud of the UK for welcoming him like this.”
The show featured musical and dance numbers from Indian and British performers including Wembley-born R&B star Jay Sean and a special pipe performance from the Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa pipe band from the Shree Swaminarayan temple in Kingsbury Road.
The evening concluded with a resounding welcome from “team UK” led by PM David Cameron and a wide-ranging address in Hindi from the Indian PM.
Addressing crowds after the welcome ceremony, Mr Modi said: “Brothers and sisters, I don’t think there are many leaders who’ve had this fortune which is your blessings and your love. Despite this cold weather, you have all come here in such large numbers. Indeed you have set a new record.
“We Indians love the British. As long as the world exists, as long as ties exist we will continue to work shoulder to shoulder and reach new heights of development.”
The Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, was also in attendance and wore a traditional black and red sari.