#ModiNotWelcome: Crowds Gather to Protest Religious Intolerance in India

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), addresses a rally in Agra November 21, 2013. ((Photo: REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee))

India's Prime Minister Modi arrived in the UK this morning for a three-day visit during which he will have lunch with the Queen, give a joint address at Parliament with David Cameron, spend a night in Chequers and host a rally at Wembley stadium where 60,000 adoring fans are expected to give him a rapturous welcome.

However supporters were conspicuous by their absence today as hundreds of angry demonstrators raised the plight of religious minorities in India. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accused of creating "an atmosphere of religious intolerance and impunity" by religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

"Our Prime Minister is here but he is an evil man," one Indian man told Christian Today on Whitehall this afternoon.

"They are killing religious minorities," said another. "It is like the BNP."

"The biggest group they are targeting are Christians," he added. "They are literally beaten to death."

CSW has urged Cameron to highlight the marked increase in attacks since Modi came to power. The charity says there have been more than 600 cases of violence against religious minorities between may 2014 and May 2015 and an estimated 43 deaths.

"An atmosphere of religious intolerance and impunity is further stoked by recent mob hysteria over beef consumption," the charity said in a statement. CSW also point out the "pervasive discrimination" and "systematic attacks" against members of the Dalit community, considered "untouchables" in the caste system. Many Dalits are Christians.

The BJP has a history of religious extremism and its rise to political power has coincided with a rise in Hindu nationalism and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological Hindu wing of the BJP. Last week the RSS mobilised its members to control "unnatural growth of the Christian population in many districts of the country," according to Fides.

"Demographic imbalance, caused by the increase of religious minorities in particular in border areas, may threaten the unity, integrity and identity of the country," it said in a statement.

India's Christians, and other minorities including Muslims, fear the group's power will give rise to further religious hatred.

"India's success as the world's largest democracy cannot be measured in purely economic terms without reference to its rights record," said CSW's chief executive Mervyn Thomas. "The UK's relationship with India should not focus on trade to the detriment of the enduring values which we hold dear.

"The UK must be vocal in demonstrating that trade does not trump human rights and democratic ideals."

This article was originally published in Christian Today. 

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