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CHOGM: India, Pakistan make a splash on streets of London

From vans moving around London with slogans and images welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to large projections against Pakistan on the iconic buildings of Westminster, and coaches of protestors arriving to stage demonstrations on Wednesday – South Asian rivalries are to the fore .

world Updated: Apr 17, 2018 20:02 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Commonwealth,Prime Minister Narendra Modi,India
A van welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Britain.(HT Photo)

As leaders of 53 Commonwealth countries deliberate on issues facing the group mainly comprising members of the former British Empire, images and messages related to India and Pakistan are making a splash on the iconic buildings and streets of London.

From vans moving around London with slogans and images welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to large projections against Pakistan on the iconic buildings of Westminster, and coaches of protestors arriving to stage demonstrations on Wednesday – South Asian rivalries are to the fore .

Modiwas expected to arrive in London from Sweden on Tuesday night for a dayof bilateral talks with the Theresa May government on April 18, and for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on April 19 and 20 in London and Windsor.

Kuldip Shekhawat, president of the Overseas Friends of BJP, said customised vans with large images of Modi will travel around different parts of London to welcome him. Modi is due to address a diaspora event in Central Hall Westminster on Wednesday that will be telecast live.

Some groups opposed to the Modi government’s policies and actions have announced protests in Parliament Square from noon on Wednesday. A pro-India counter-protest has been planned around the same time by a section of the Indian community.

Vans and billboards with political slogans related to India and Pakistan have often been used in the recent past. In November 2015, a large projection in Westminsteropposing Modi’s visit hit the headlines, but this time a Baloch group used the mediumto highlight Pakistan’s alleged human rights abuses.

On Monday night, the World Baloch Organisation (WBO) projected messages on the parliament building in Westminster. The slogans included "Commonwealth nations must question Pakistan overenforced disappearances in Balochistan" and "Pakistanmust answer for crimes against humanity".

An anti-Pakistan projection by a Baloch group on the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Monday night. (HT Photo)

According to WBO’s Bhawal Mengal, "The human rights situation in Balochistanis worsening. Enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial killings of Baloch men, women and children are a recurrent experience. Systematic oppression committed on behalf of the Pakistani state has been prevalent for decades."

Pakistan is expected to be represented at CHOGM by President Mamnoon Hussain. The prime minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Raja Faroooq Haider, has reportedly arrived in London to lead a rally against alleged rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Protests have been planned by some Sikh groups and the South Asia Solidarity Group. A group of Indian-origin women have also announced a silent protest against recent incidents of rape in India.

Scotland Yard has made elaborate security arrangements for CHOGM,including road diversions in central London.

First Published: Apr 17, 2018 20:02 IST