Two faces of the Indian community is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to encounter during his three-day visit to the UK, beginning Thursday. One, an enthusiastic supporter. Two, a committed protester. One, happy about Modi’s present. Two, disturbed about Modi’s past. Both have different visions of India’s future under Modi.
Bina Correa, 44, is an enthusiastic supporter who is head of liaison with the performers who will showcase their talent at the Wembley Stadium.
Suresh Grover, 61, is a social activist who is leading the efforts to protest against Modi outside 10, Downing Street, over the Gujarat riots.
Correa, who works as an analyst in London, has been working for the last three weeks to ensure that about 300 children, who are part of the 650 performers at Wembley Stadium, are well looked after.
She came to the UK when she was a two-year-old, but has relatives in Baroda. “I don’t live in India, but I have my family there. So what Modi does impacts my family. He is an influential figure whose decisions can impact them, their lives. So it’s my duty to do my bit to make Modi feel welcome here,” says Correa.
On the other side of the divide is Grover, who is the director of The Monitoring Group, which has been fighting and campaigning against racial hatred, violence and human rights violations for the last four decades in the UK. As a 16-year-old, he was stabbed by what he calls “a group of skinheads”. He too has family in India. Grover has campaigned against a host of issues — from racism in the UK, to protests against the Emergency as a young volunteer, then the 1984 riots (when he travelled to Trilokpuri), the Bhopal gas tragedy and all kinds of fundamentalism.
He recalls getting calls after the Gujarat riots in 2002, and became active in providing legal aid to three British nationals who were killed in the riots. “We cannot prevent Modi from coming to the UK, since there are bilateral relations at stake. Although that’s what we did in 2003. But what we want now is the acknowledgement of his acts of ommission and commission in the riots. That’s what we are protesting about,” he says.
Correa sees the PM as the “harbinger of hope”, Grover is clear that Modi should be made “accountable” for his past.
Correa says it’s going to be a loud welcome for Modi in Wembley Stadium, Grover wants his group’s voices to be loud enough to reach Modi’s ears.
While Correa and Grover are the two faces who represent the divided Indian community in the UK, the numbers — as it seems now — are stacked in favour of Correa. Correa estimates that about 60,000 people are expected to attend the Wembley event, Grover says his supporters are going to be in “thousands, and not in hundreds”.
Grover wraps up the conversation on a cautious note. “There are a large number of people who don’t see Modi becoming successful unless he severs his links with the RSS. Look at the lynching over beef, this is what is going to happen,” he says.
“We are not working for the money here. We want India to prosper under Modi,” says Correa.
Their worlds inhabit the same space in the UK, but Correa and Grover are worlds apart.