Narendra Modi leads India in mourning Queen, remembering ‘a stalwart of our times’

·3-min read

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, along with president Draupadi Murmu, extended their condolences and tributes after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, calling her “a stalwart of our times”.

The Queen died “peacefully” at Balmoral, Scotland, on Thursday afternoon aged 96 after serving 70 years as Britain’s head of the state, the longest in the monarchy’s history.

The Indian government on Friday announced a day of state mourning on 11 September as "a mark of respect" for the Queen. On the day, the national flag will be at half-mast throughout the country and there will be no official entertainment, a statement from the home ministry read.

Mr Modi on Thursday recalled his “memorable meetings” with the Queen during his visit to the UK in 2015 and 2018.

“I will never forget her warmth and kindness,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

“During one of the meetings she showed me the handkerchief Mahatma Gandhi gifted her on her wedding. I will always cherish that gesture,” he added

Mr Modi was invited for an audience with the Queen during his visit to the UK in 2018. His welcome included a special event hosted by Prince Charles, who succeeded as King immediately, according to the protocol.

The coronation of the former Prince of Wales will be an elaborate ritual expected on Saturday at St James’s Palace in London, in front of a ceremonial body known as the Accession Council.

The handkerchief Mr Modi mentioned in his tweet was a handmade gift by Mahatma Gandhi given to the Queen at her wedding to Prince Philip in November 1947.

The yarn was spun by Gandhi himself, who held no possessions at that point but wanted to send the princess at that time a special gift, according to various historical accounts.

It was carried to England by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India.

Ms Murmu, India’s new president, also offered condolences.

“In the demise of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of UK, the world has lost a great personality. An era has passed since she steered her country and people for over seven decades,” the president tweeted.

“I share the grief of [the] people of UK and convey my heartfelt condolence to the family.”

Apart from the tributes and condolences, the Queen’s death invoked comments surrounding the colonial past of the country and the symbolism of the royal family in the eyes of former colonies.

Searches for the whereabouts famous Kohinoor diamond, which is steeped in India’s rich history, saw an uptick. The diamond, which was ceded to Queen Victoria, continues to be the crown jewel.

Also spelt as Koh-i-Noor, the 105.6-carat diamond has been a point of contention between India and the UK and Indians maintain that it is a stolen possession which belongs to the people of India.