This Diwali – the Hindu festival of light – will reflect growing polarisation in Britain’s Indian diaspora.
On the eve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to the UK tomorrow (12 November), it finds itself more divided than ever.
Supporters of the ‘business-friendly’ prime minister have organised a reception themed ‘Two Great Nations. One Glorious Future’ at Wembley Stadium on Friday (13 November).
But alternative events project a darker story: rallies in Downing Street and Wembley at the weekend will highlight increased violence against religious minorities and Dalits under Modi.
Mayuri Parmar of the ‘UK Welcomes Modi’ organising committee is optimistic, telling Lapido:‘Over 60,000 people are expected to come to Wembley.
‘There is already a waiting list. This will be the biggest reception for an Indian Prime Minister outside of India.’
Fuelled by the large Indian markets, BJP’s commanding majority in the lower house of parliament and a buoyant Indian diaspora, Modi has managed to charm many in the West, especially the business community.
But the UK is also likely to be where the Modi juggernaut hits a tree. While there were sporadic protests by the US and Australian diasporas, the UK protests are expected to be larger and more organised.
Awaaz Network, a UK-based alliance of South Asian organisations and individuals, leading the protests, projected their message onto the Houses of Parliament on Sunday (8 November).
Kalpana Wilson of South Asia Solidarity Group, and a member of the Awaaz Network says: ‘We have come together to make sure that the protests reflect the breadth of opposition to Modi in Britain, particularly among Indians here.’
Suresh Grover, a human rights lawyer who is director of the monitoring group and Coordinator of Awaaz told Lapido: ‘The Indian community in the UK, given its close ties back home, has always mobilised when it is concerned about human rights violations and attacks on constitutional principles.
‘Only very specific sections of the Indian community have been mobilised by the VHP and HSS in the UK for the Wembley event.’
He added that while there might be a sprinkling of Sikhs and Muslims, the vast majority would be Modi's home crowd - Gujarati Hindus.
The Indian diaspora in the West forms a very important support base for all political parties in India.
The polarisation therefore reflects a growing loss of confidence in Modi and a major loss for the BJP government.
Controversially, the BJP and other Hindu nationalist organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), rely heavily on the UK diaspora for funds.
‘People in India are increasingly saying no to Modi’s politics of hate and our protests will reflect that this is the case in the diaspora too,’ says Wilson.
Criticism stems from attempts by BJP leaders to fan communal divisions along caste and religious lines, especially during elections, and for not doing enough to stop the wave of violence against Dalits (meaning 'Untouchables'), rationalists, dissenters and religious minorities.
Worse still, say critics, Modi is neither speaking out against such incidents nor censoring those within his party who justify them.
Modi’s BJP and its allies were comprehensively defeated in the Bihar state-assembly election at the weekend.
The BJP and its allies won only 58 of the 243 seats, compared to the 178 won by the Janta Dal (United) and its allies.
The election was touted as a referendum for the Modi government’s 18-month rule.
Tomorrow’s visit is expected to improve trade and political relations between the UK and India.
It was in an effort to woo the new Indian administration that former Chancellor George Osborne and former Foreign Secretary William Hague visited India in July 2014.
But relations between the UK and Modi have been tenuous.
Between 2002 and 2012, the UK imposed a diplomatic boycott on Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat.
The riots left at least a thousand people dead, most of them Muslims including three British citizens.
Saeed Dawood, Shakil Dawood and Mohammad Aswat, all three Britons of Indian origin, were burnt alive by a mob during the Gujarat riots.
But in 2015, after 13 years of investigation, a special court acquitted all six men accused in the case, citing a lack of evidence.
In 2012, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India, had noted in its report that ‘no criminal case is made out against Narendra Modi.’
Suresh Grover, who represented the three Britons, told Lapido that the protests ‘will show our opposition to the manner in which the British Government is becoming almost slavish to Modi’s agenda, portraying him as a "global leader" by supporting the Wembley event.’
Kalpana Wilson added: ‘Cameron is eager to welcome Modi in order to promote the interests of British corporates but our protest will make it clear that this is "Not in Our Name".