The row at home over what are being called acts of increasing intolerance echoed in London Thursday when that question was put to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first interaction with the media after talks with British counterpart David Cameron.
He was also asked about the protests on the streets of London by a reporter who said he did not deserve respect given his record as the Chief Minister of Gujarat though he was likely to get a rapturous welcome Friday by the Indian community at the Wembley.
Asked by a BBC reporter on why India was becoming increasingly intolerant, Modi said India was the land of Buddha and Gandhi and would never accept anything that went against its basic social values.
“India does not accept intolerance even if it is one or two or three incidents. For a country of 125 crore people, whether it is significant or not, it does not matter. For us, every incident is serious. We do not tolerate it.”
“Law takes strong action and will continue to do so. India is a vibrant democracy which under the Constitution provides protection to all citizens, their lives and thoughts. We are committed to it,” he said.
A reporter from The Guardian newspaper asked Cameron how comfortable he was receiving Modi given that during his first tenure as British Prime Minister, Modi was not permitted to visit the UK because of his record as the Gujarat Chief Minister. The reporter then asked Modi about the protests against him on the streets of London.
To this, Cameron replied: “I am pleased to welcome Mr Modi. He comes here with an enormous and historic mandate. As far as the other issue is concerned, there were legal proceedings. Earlier today, he was received by the British government and I discussed with him how the two countries can work together.”
Modi, on his part, said “I want to set the record straight” about the “other issue” raised by the reporter. “In 2003 when I came here, I got an enthusiastic reception even then. The UK never barred me from coming here. There was no bar. It is a wrong perception. I want to set it right.”
Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the British High Commissioner visited Gandhinagar and met Modi, sending a clear signal that London was reaching out to the person being projected as the next prime minister.