Scathing British Media Calls Narendra Modi 'Former Persona Non Grata', 'Ex-Pariah'

13/11/2015 4:23 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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PETER NICHOLLS via Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) watch a flypast by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows display team in Parliament square in London on November 12, 2015. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and address a huge rally at London's Wembley Stadium during a three-day visit to Britain focused on trade and investment starting today. AFP PHOTO / POOL / PETER NICHOLLS (Photo credit should read PETER NICHOLLS/AFP/Getty Images)

Below a fairly large photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, captured in an animated discussion with his British counterpart David Cameron, is the headline "Pomp and ceremony for an ex-pariah". The Telegraph's report on Friday in an inside page runs with the strap: "India's prime minister, a man once shunned by Britain and the US, is greeted with all honours, untroubled by the protestors".

The headline alludes to the period after 2002 when the two countries distanced itself from the Indian premier after communal riots broke out in Gujarat and over 1000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Modi was then the chief minister of Gujarat.

Even as Cameron laid out the red carpet for his Indian counterpart, the brutal British press showed no mercy in its criticism of the PM who is under tremendous pressure at home for failing to control a series of attacks on civil liberties.

Media houses in UK did not pull any punches on Friday, calling the Indian PM a "former persona non grata" to an "ex-pariah". A column in The Times even suggested that you hold your nose before shaking the PM's hand.

"The Hindu god Vishnu has several incarnations, many of them human. The latest of these appears to be Narendra Modi," wrote British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor for The Guardian. "All over India there are images of the man, right arm raised in the benevolent gesture of good fortune. But this strong-but-enlightened-man image hides the frightening and shrill reality of an increasingly Modi-led Hindu dominance of India."

"All is forgiven" ran the front page headline in The Daily Telegraph. The accompanying news story, written by their special correspondent Tom Rowles, described the change in Modi's reception in Britain "from a blacklist to the red carpet treatment".

"Narendra Modi’s transformation from persona non grata to guest of honour was complete on Thursday when the Indian prime minister was greeted with all the razzmatazz Britain could summon," read the piece, even commenting on Modi's "heavily-accented English".

A Daily Mail cartoon made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Modi's English language skills.

Meanwhile, even as The Times of London published a news roundup of the visit in their front page, a column in one of the inside pages was vicious in its attack. "The egregious PM is not a man who shares our values but Britain’s relationship with India is bigger than one man," wrote Philip Collins, the newspaper's columnist and chief lead writer.

And this is a cartoon from today's Independent:

Despite Cameron's defence of Modi's record on human rights abuses, the British press was unanimous in its tongue-lashing of the PM.

Modi faced some tough questions at a joint press conference with Cameron at the Locarno Room in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. While he's remained mostly silent facing protests from citizen groups in India on the issue of intolerance, he heartily defended the country's civil rights record abroad and strongly pledged to uphold India's plural structure.

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