Boris Johnson risked a backlash after he posed at a JCB factory in India today – at the same time as a row rages over bulldozers being used to raze Muslim-owned properties in New Delhi.
On the first day of his two-day trip to India, the Prime Minister met with JCB owner Lord Bamford, who has made huge donations to both the Conservative Party and Mr Johnson personally, at the company’s factory in Vadodara, Gujarat.
Mr Johnson clambered aboard one of the firm’s vehicles for a photo opportunity.
But he soon attracted criticism as it was highlighted how JCB-branded machines had been used to raze a number of Muslim-owned shops in India’s capital just a day earlier.
On Wednesday morning, bulldozers demolished a string of shops in New Delhi’s north-west Jahangirpuri neighbourhood.
Local authorities used the vehicles to raze the buildings before India’s Supreme Court halted the demolitions.
It came days after communal violence shook New Delhi and saw dozens arrested.
Boris Johnson posed in a JCB vehicle as he met with the firm’s chairman, Lord Bamford, during a visit to the company’s factory in Vadodara, Gujarat
Lord Bamford has donated huge sums both to the Conservative Party and to the Prime Minister personally in recent years
A JCB-branded bulldozer is pictured dismantling structures outside a mosque in New Delhi’s Jahangirpuri neighbourhood
Local authorities used vehicles to raze buildings before India’s Supreme Court halted the demolitions
21/04/2022. Gujarat, India. Prime Minister Boris Johnson-India Tour Day One
Gujarat, India. Prime Minister Boris Johnson having a Turban fitted while visiting India
For nearly an hour after the Supreme Court order, officials continued to demolish structures, including the outer entrance and stairs leading into a mosque.
They stopped the bulldozers just outside the entrance of a Hindu temple, about 50 metres (160ft) from the mosque, and began to retreat.
This spurred outrage from Muslim residents who said they were being targeted.
Anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks have risen across India in the past 10 days, including stone throwing between Hindu and Muslim groups during religious processions.
There have also been demolitions of a number of properties, many belonging to Muslims, in another state last week.
Police have arrested at least 24 suspects since communal violence broke out on Saturday during a Hindu religious procession in Jahangirpuri.
Campaign group Amnesty International India accused the PM of being ‘ignorant’ by visiting a JCB factory during his two-visit to the country
Asked about bulldozers being used to raze the properties of Muslims in India – as well as concerns about press freedom and protection of minorities in the country – Mr Johnson indicated he would bring up those issues during his talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi tomorrow.
‘We always raise the difficult issues, of course we do, but the fact is that India is a country of 1.35 billion people and it is democratic, it’s the world’s largest democracy,’ the PM said.
Indian TV station News24 today featured coverage of Mr Johnson’s JCB visit between its reporting on the use of bulldozers in Jahangirpuri.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson having a Turban fitted while visiting Indi
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the Gandhi Ashram on the first day of his official visit to India
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on an Indian Air Force Chinook while on an official visit to India
Campaign group Amnesty International India accused the PM of being ‘ignorant’ by visiting a JCB factory today.
They said: ‘In the backdrop of Municipal Corporation of Delhi using JCB bulldozers to raze down shops of Muslims in Northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri yesterday, UK Prime Minister’s inauguration of a JCB factory in Gujarat is not only ignorant but his silence on the incident is deafening.
‘As Indian authorities clamp down on human rights daily, the UK Government must not remain a mute bystander. It must bring human rights to the discussion table. India cannot wait another day for justice.
‘The demolition continued despite and in defiance of an order by the Supreme Court of India asking the authorities to stay the demolition exercise.
‘The residents of Jahangirpuri were not even given an opportunity to salvage their possessions.’
Hasan Patel, a former BBC journalist who now works as a communications specialist, posted on Twitter: ‘Bl**** Hell! JCB’s are being used to wipe out Muslim neighbourhoods in India and Boris Johnson has just endorsed them by this photo shoot – are his people so stupid and dense?’