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Saturday Jan 25 2020

India fails to get Republic Day protest banned in London

London to see another big protest on Sunday as thousands plan to assemble outside the Indian High Commission

LONDON: India has failed to get the Republic Day protest banned in London on 26 January by a group of Kashmiris and Sikhs coming together to demand freedom from India.

The protest on Sunday is being orgaised by Tehreek-e -Kashmir UK and World Sikh Parliament outside Indian High Commission at noon.

After the protest was announced, the Indian High Commission requested the British government to ban the protest alleging that protestors will attack the high commission, will burn Indian constitution and that Muslim and Sikh “extremists” will be attending the protest. The 'Times of India' newspaper ran incendiary, Islamophobic coverage of the upcoming protest by linking it with “extremism”, “Islamists” and hyping up the number of potential protestors to cause panic. The coverage was followed by Indian government representative writing to the Home Secretary Priti Patel, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Scotland Yard chief to ban the protest citing security fears and potential of violence.

Protest organisers Fahim Kayani and Ranjit Singh Serai confirmed on Saturday that the Metropolitan Police have decided to put the Sikh and Kashmiri protesters on the opposite pavement, across the road from the high commission building. They said the police have decided not to ban the protest as according to their own assessment, there will be no violence and anti-India protestors will only be protesting in a peaceful manner.

Ranjit Singh Serai said: “There will be limited traffic passing along Aldwych, between those barriers and the High Commission building. The police want to keep traffic moving through Aldwych during the protest. If there is a counter protest, the police plan to put that in an area on Indian High Commission side of the road, to one side of the building. The police have asked that coaches drop off and collect participants on Kingsway.”

Fahim Kiyani said: “We have assured police that this is intended to be a peaceful protest. Our respective diaspora communities will simply be exercising our democratic right of protest. It is clear that the Indian side have made efforts to ban this protest, for purely political reasons. They have not succeeded and we sincerely hope the police will deal with any provocative action by the Indian side on the day. We shall ask all of our participants to protest within the law and to cooperate with the police in properly carrying out their duties.”

Ranjit Singh Serai said that the World Sikh Parliament (WSP) decided to back the anti-India protest on the occasion of India’s Republic Day on January 26 to inform the world about the crimes Indian state is committing against Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits and others.

The protest organisers say that India has no moral right to observe January 26 as Republic Day when it has turned the valley of 8 million people into jail.

The Twitter handle of the High Commission of India in London said in a tweet: “High Commissioner called on Home Secretary Priti Patel & discussed issues of mutual interest to take forward India-UK ties. She conveyed security and safety concerns flowing from planned protests including on Republic Day at India House.”

BJP affiliated groups also wrote to Mayor of London, Metropolitan Police commissioner and Home Secretary.

The Indian High Commission wrote in its correspondence that it has been attacked “multiple times since August last year” by Kashmiri groups marching against India’s decision to abrogate Article 370.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the matter was taken up by the Indian High Commission in London with the UK Foreign Office to avoid any "untoward" incident.

"You are aware that there have been incidents that have happened in the past and we have taken up the matter very strongly with the UK Foreign Office. This was again done by the High Commissioner of India in London. We have sensitised them about the need to secure our premises, the safety of our personnel who are there. This is all part of what constitutes normal diplomatic behaviour by other country. We do hope that UK government will take adequate steps to ensure no untoward incident takes place," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Since August 5 thousands of Kashmiris, particularly youth, have been arrested. Political leaders both pro-freedom and pro-India have been put behind the bars and internet is closed for the last five months.

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