The October 27 anti-India protests in London over Kashmir will not be allowed to gather or culminate outside the Indian high commission, Scotland Yard has informed organizers, following pressure from New Delhi and the Indian community concerned over a possible repeat of the recent violence.
The 10,000-strong protest, which was due to begin from outside the Downing Street at 10 am and end at 5 pm outside India House, will now begin at 2 pm and end at Trafalgar Square. Violators will be arrested under the Public Order Act.
The development follows mounting pressure from Indian quarters concerned over a repeat of violence seen on August 15 and September 3, when some people were assaulted and parts of the mission building were attacked.
India had sent a ‘note verbale’ (diplomatic note) to the Foreign Office on the issue, amid fury that concerns raised by the community and New Delhi over such anti-India activities are perhaps treated as “routine”.
The issue figured in the House of Commons on Wednesday when Conservative MP Bob Blackman recalled the violence outside India House on August 15 and September 3 and asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson what action was being taken to prevent possible violence on Sunday.
Blackman asked Johnson: “In this House, we defend forever the right to peaceful protest, yet on 15 August, and just three weeks ago, pro-Pakistani organisations held violent protests outside the Indian high commission”.
“This Sunday, there is the threat of 10,000 people being brought to demonstrate outside the Indian high commission on Diwali—the holiest day for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. What action will the Government take to prevent violent protests this Sunday,” Blackman asked.
Johnson responded by saying that he agreed with Blackman’s concern and will raise it with the police and believed that violence and intimidation had no place in the country.
“We must all be clear in this House that violence and intimidation anywhere in this country are wholly unacceptable,” Johnson said.
Blackman also wrote to London mayor Sadiq Khan to do everything to block the planned anti-India protest, and added that “Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist diasporas were worried that authorities in the UK were not doing enough to protect them”.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest within the law but strongly condemn any damage caused to diplomatic missions. The safety and security of diplomatic missions in the UK, and their staff, is of utmost concern”.
“We have been and remain in close contact with the Indian High Commission in London to emphasise this,” the spokesperson added.
The London mayor last week condemned the protest plan and called on the organisers to cancel it. Khan and his Labour party have been at the receiving end from large sections of the Indian community over the violence and the emergency resolution on Kashmir–adopted at the party’s annual conference–that was rejected by New Delhi as ‘unfounded’.
Khan said he had no power to ban such protests but recognised that the march will only “deepen divisions” and understood that many British Indians felt “deeply threatened and worried”.
“As mayor, I will continue to do all I can to extend the hand of friendship to Londoners of Indian origin, who continue to make such an incredible contribution to our city. I want to ensure they always feel respected, valued and made to feel safe in London, and that London remains a welcoming place to people from India and around the world”, he added.
Khan said the mayor’s office was working with the police to prevent a repeat of the violence outside India House. Scotland Yard, he added, was also working closely with the Indian high commission on this issue.