Modi visit: Protesters do downward dogs to end violence against India's women

Women protest for #HerVoice against Modi in London
Women protest for #HerVoice against Modi in London Credit: Radhika Sanghani

Today India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting the UK in what's being labelled a historic visit.

Yet while David Cameron goes out of his way to make Modi welcome, others are protesting the Indian leader's failure to stop religious intolerance and violence against women in India.

Most are raising their placards and shouting slogans as Modi speaks to thousands of supporters at a sold-out event today at Wembley.

But over in London's Tavistock Square a number of protesters are expressing their frustration through downward dog.

Welcome to the 'Twilight Yoga Protest' (it started at 4pm) where a handful of dedicated women are stretching in support for female survivors of abuse.

The protest is organised by #HerVoice, a campaign to stop violence against women in India. A number of their campaigners are over in Wembley, but this group is showing solidarity from London with the peaceful protest - topically situated right by a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

It is being led by two 'yogis' - Andrea Ferdinand and Catie Faroughi who are supporting #HerVoice's efforts to fight sexual violence against women in India.

"This is an issue people really need to be aware of," explains Ferdinand. "Injustice is injustice regardless of where you are."

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi chats with Prime Minister David Cameron Credit: AFP

It's the first time she has seen yoga used a form of protest but thinks it is fitting in this situation - particularly as it invokes the Hindu principle of 'ahimsa' or 'non violence' which Gandhi embodied.

"If yoga can be used as a way to support survivors of violence that's definitely a good thing, and it won't hurt to try."

The protest has drawn women who have braved the cold to practise yoga together during twilight and spread the message that violence against women in India must stop.

"It's so peaceful," a few bystanders tell me. "I feel so zen."

Faroughi says that the decision to use yoga is symbolic and important, as the meditative exercise can help survivors of trauma recover and it is a calming tool.

"It helps you see things clearly," she explains. "It's a beautiful way of seeing an issue clearly and it's very natural and empowering."

Amelia Bell, a 19-year-old student at the London School of Economics, says she's come down to join the protest because it's a cause she feels passionately about.

"Yoga is something peaceful that a lot of people really enjoy doing. We're not trying to protest aggressively.

"We just want to get our message across peacefully and support women who have already had violence in their lives."

Fellow student Tilly Flack suggested more protests should follow their pattern: "I don't think riots and things are the way forward.

"If you're promoting calmness and peace, what better way to do it than yoga?"

The handful of women joining hands in a symbolic circle of peace clearly agree. Now all they can do is hope that Modi is paying attention.