Narendra Modi visits UK: Protests tarnish celebrations

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UK rolls out red carpet for India's PM Modi
03:13 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Modi's visit to the UK is the first of any Indian Prime Minister since 2006

Anti-Modi protesters outside Downing Street

60,000 expected at "UK Welcomes Modi" event

CNN  — 

Narendra Modi, India’s Prime minister, started his three-day visit to the UK Thursday.

This will culminate Friday with what organizers claim will be the largest firework display the UK has ever seen.

But it’s not all razzmatazz, Modi is a divisive figure and his visit has been met by protests as well as adoration.

The rock star Indian PM is still reeling from defeat in regional elections last week and he will welcome the foreign distraction.

But how is Modi being received by the UK?

The UK government and some Britons are very welcoming

UK Prime Minister David Cameron posted a video to his Twitter page to welcome Modi.

Cameron himself has been eager to please India, visiting three times since 2010. By contrast, this is the first time an Indian Prime Minister has visited the UK since 2006.

But it’s not like Modi has a fear of flying. Since assuming office in May 2014 Modi visited 28 other countries before coming to the UK.

Some Indians have even mocked Modi for how much time he spends abroad.

Twitter user “Shobhaa De” wrote in May “Is it true Narendra Modi just boarded a flight to visit India? Welcome home, Pradhan Mantriji! How long will you be staying this time?”

Despite this, many from Britain’s Indian community are excited by the visit.

Prerna Sian said on Twitter, “The time has nearly come to celebrate PM Modi’s arrival in London, can’t wait!”

Another user, Mukesh, tweeted, “Excited and hoping there is very good relationship development between #India and #UK.”

Up to 60,000 people are expected to give the Indian PM a warm reception at the “UK Welcomes Modi” event at Wembley Stadium on Friday night.

Protests at Modi’s visit

However, critics still consider Modi complicit in the 2002 Gujarat violence, in which at least 900 people were killed.

As a result of this and other issues, there were massive protests outside of Downing Street Thursday.

Protesters carried signs that said, “Your action is inhuman and against international law” and “Back off India.”

And, on November 9, a huge projection appeared on the British Houses of Parliament that read “Modi Not Welcome.”

Modi was banned from entering the UK for more than a decade over allegations that he failed to prevent the 2002 anti-Muslim riots.

However, the ban was lifted in October 2012.

Back in 2005, the U.S. refused to give Modi a visa on the basis that he was responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom.”

Twitter user “Sabena Siddiqi” said, “UK Sikhs and Kashmiris will not tolerate this visit by the butcher of Gujarat.”

Other signs, held by Nepalese protesters, said: “India’s illegal blockade is killing Nepal’s earthquake survivors” and “We want freedom of transit.”

Modi’s itinerary

Modi has a busy agenda for his three-day trip.

He addressed the UK Parliament and was due to meet business leaders in the City of London Thursday. He will also visit the statue of Gandhi in Parliament Square and spend the night in Chequers, the UK Prime Minister’s country house.

Friday, he will lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace before attending the enormous Wembley event.

The following day, Modi will unveil a statue of Basaveshwara, a 12th century Indian philosopher, and introduce a memorial for Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a former Indian politician. He will then depart for Turkey to attend the G20 summit.