Modi in UK: Pakistani-origin politician key figure in protests

Anti-Modi protester A Sikh protester at Parliament Square in London during Narendra Modi's visit | Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a rapturous welcome during his visit to the UK in 2015, but the atmosphere during his ongoing visit appears a bit more subdued. This is in part due to protests at Parliament Square in London being organised by an assortment of groups opposed to Indian policies, or, more specifically, Modi's politics. These groups include Kashmiri advocacy groups, Khalistan supporters and dalit and minority organisations.

Over the past few days, the name of Lord Nazir Ahmed has gained in visibility as the protests were announced. Ahmed, who describes himself as the first Muslim to become a member of Britain's House of Lords for life, is of Pakistani origin. He has adopted a consistent line against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir. A cursory glance at his Twitter feed would show a steady flow of posts opposing Indian policies in Kashmir and also refers to the Kathua rape and murder case. Ahmed also promoted a hashtag #ModiNotWelcome, in addition to promoting planned protests.

In addition to his views on Kashmir, Nazir became infamous for claiming that there was a 'Jewish conspiracy' that led to him being imprisoned for causing a fatal car crash in 2009.

Dalit and minority groups, such as CasteWatchUK and the South Asian Solidarity Group, announced protests at Parliament Square at the time of Modi's meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday. These groups are protesting the BJP's perceived Hindutva politics and treatment of minorities and dalits.

While some Sikh protesters are campaigning on the Khalistani plank, others are calling for the release of Jagtar Singh Johal, a Scottish Sikh who was arrested in November last year in Punjab for allegedly being involved in targeted killings in the state.

A large number of pro-Modi activists staged counter-demonstrations on Wednesday. Modi will be in the UK for two more days.