HUNDREDS of protesters gathered outside British parliament on Wednesday to greet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrived for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.
The crowds were there to protest the wave of violent sexual assaults that has hit India in recent months, including multiple brutal rape cases of minor girls that have sparked nationwide outrage.
Holding placards reading “Modi go home” and “we stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed,” they also gathered outside Downing Street.
— Sabena Siddiqi (@sabena_siddiqi) April 18, 2018
Modi later responded at an event in front of thousands of Indian, saying the rape cases were “a matter of great concern,” had brought “a shame” on the country and called for the perpetrators to be outed.
While he expressed sorrow for the cases of these young girls, he also told the attendees at the Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath diaspora event that we should not politicise the issue of rape.
“A rape is a rape. How can we tolerate this exploitation of our daughters?,” he said, as quoted by The Economic Times.
“But can we compare the number of rapes in different governments? We cannot say there were this many rapes in our government and that many in yours. There cannot be a worse way to deal with this issue,” he said.
Sikhs & Kashmiris protest in London against Narendra Modi during his visit to the Britain for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, condemning Modi’s affiliation with violent Hindu nationalism and rising attacks on minorities, vulnerable and women in India. pic.twitter.com/FuXnl0Q9nu
— Danyal Gilani (@DanyalGilani) April 18, 2018
Protests have been taking place across India since the brutal details of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl were revealed last week.
Asifa was kidnapped, drugged and held for several days in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, before she was raped and murdered.
In the other case, a state lawmaker from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party stands accused of raping a teenager. No action was taken against the politician until the girl threatened to set herself on fire earlier this month. Her father died soon afterwards from injuries he suffered in police custody.
LIVE from London’s Parliament Square: Women protest PM Modi’s visit in the light of Kathua and Unnao Rapes.People in UK tell Modi go back and protect our daughters #Justice4RapeVictims pic.twitter.com/35lSLsSwTj
— knights™ (@knights_India) April 18, 2018
Modi had received escalating criticism after remaining silent on the cases, before eventually promising justice would be served, whoever the guilty were.
“The Indian government are doing nothing, and you feel sorry for the families because of the total injustice of it all,” said Navindra Singh, an Indian-born lawyer who lives in Britain.
“He has been in power for four years now and there has been no policy change to help protect women and children.”
Nearly 40 percent of India’s rape victims are children, and the 40,000 reported rapes in 2016 marked a 60 percent increase over the level in 2012. But women’s rights groups say the figures are still gross underestimates.
Additional reporting by Reuters.