LONDON • Hundreds of noisy protesters greeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he arrived in London, demonstrating over a rising tide of sexual violence in India, including two brutal rapes.
Holding placards reading "Modi go home" and "We stand against Modi's agenda of hate and greed", they gathered outside Downing Street and Parliament on Wednesday as Mr Modi arrived for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mr Modi later responded at an event in front of thousands of Indians, saying the rape cases were "a matter of great concern", had brought "a shame" on the country and called for the perpetrators to be outed.
"Rape is rape... How can we accept this?" Mr Modi said through a translator at the diaspora event, adding that rape should not be politicised. "This is a matter of great concern for the country and these sinners are somebody's sons... The rape of a (daughter) is a matter of worry, a shame for the country."
Sexual violence against women is a highly charged political issue in India, where protests regularly erupt about entrenched violence against women and the failure to protect them.
Protests have erupted across India after the latest rape cases were reported. Police officers and a politician are under investigation in two of the unrelated cases.
In a crime that shocked India, an eight-year-old Muslim girl in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped, drugged and held for several days while she was raped repeatedly and then murdered.
In the other case, a state lawmaker from Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party stands accused of raping a teenager. No action was taken against the politician until the girl threatened to set herself on fire earlier this month.
Mr Modi's latest comments followed remarks last week - which came after a week of silence on the issue - and promised justice regardless of whoever the guilty were.
Nearly 40 per cent of India's rape victims are children, and the 40,000 reported rapes in 2016 marked a 60 per cent increase over the level in 2012. But women's rights groups say the figures are still gross underestimates.
Mr Modi, a Hindu nationalist, is a divisive figure in India and his second trip to Britain as Prime Minister represents a remarkable turnaround for a man who was once banned from the United Kingdom over his alleged role, as chief minister of Gujarat, in riots that killed about 1,000 people in 2002.
Britain ended a boycott of Mr Modi in 2012 after he emerged from being a provincial politician to become the likely leader of the world's largest democracy. He has denied wrongdoing and was exonerated by an inquiry ordered by India's Supreme Court.