New Delhi: A day after municipal corporation in Delhi razed homes in Jahangirpuri using bulldozers, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday inaugurated a factory of UK-headquartered heavy equipment maker JCB at Halol in Gujarat's Panchmahals district. Visuals of him waving from a bulldozer drew widespread criticism with Amnesty India calling the move "ignorant", and saying his "silence" on the incident was deafening.
Johnson opened JCB's latest factory in India with a 100 million pound investment, which will fabricate parts for global production lines. With 11 factories in the UK employing more than 7,500 people, JCB first began manufacturing in India in 1979 and is now the country's leading producer of construction equipment.
During an inspection of the premises, Johnson suddenly climbed on a bulldozer kept at the factory. He remained seated inside the bulldozer for a few moments and then stood up on the heavy machine and waved at media persons covering his visit to the facility, PTI reported.
Johnson's act invited a lot of attention and became a talking point on social media platforms as it came in the backdrop of bulldozers being used to demolish "illegal" homes and shops in some parts of the country in the last few days in the wake of violence, the latest being in Delhi's Jahangirpuri area which saw clashes during Hanuman Jayanti celebrations.
Reacting sharply to this, Amnesty India tweeted, "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."
It further stated that 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," Amnesty India said.
"These brazen attacks on the right to livelihood and adequate housing of religious minorities in India is an attack on their hopes for a secure future," it added.
According to PTI, bulldozers tore down several concrete and temporary structures close to a mosque in Jahangirpuri as part of an anti-encroachment drive by BJP-ruled North Delhi Municipal Corporatin, days after the northwest Delhi neighbourhood was rocked by communal violence. The Supreme Court had to intervene twice to stop the drive after it took cognizance of a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolition.
Besides this, bulldozers were also used recently in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat during demolition drives against 'illegal' structures.
In the United Kingdom too, social media users and media questioned Johnson's visit to the JCB plant.
According to Evening Standard, when asked if Johnson was embarrassed to make the JCB visit, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said, "I think this is predominantly a matter for the Indian authorities."
On be quizzed whether Johnson chose to visit the plant because Lord Bamford is a major donor, the official spokesman said: "No, he chose to go to the JCB factory because it’s a very good illustration of UK business."
Boris Johnson landed in Gujarat's Ahmedabad on Thursday for a two-day visit to India with focus on stepping up cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, giving momentum to negotiations on Free Trade Agreement between the two countries as well as enhancing defence ties.