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I-Day function disrupted in UK town

world Updated: Aug 21, 2012 21:39 IST
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India's Independence Day celebrations in UK's east Midlands was cancelled after alleged pro-Khalistan elements disrupted the event by preventing people from attending it and removing the tricolour.

Organised by the Indian Workers Association (IWA), the function was to be held on Saturday at the Ramgarhia Community centre in Coventry, a town that has a considerable minority of Indian origin.

Dyal Bagri, IWA president, told PTI "The venue was occupied by some very threatening people, some of them with faces masked. First they said they won't allow any alcohol and meat to be served.

"When we said there were no such plans, they said they won't allow the Congress party to hold Independence Day celebrations".

Bagri added: "When we said we are not the Congress, they said they were 'Khalistanis' and had nothing to do with India.

"They tried to provoke us, but we told people to be very tolerant and not involve themselves in any provocation".

India's consul-general V S Ramalingam, based in nearby Birmingham, was scheduled to deliver a message from President Pranab Mukherjee at the event, but Bagri said he was asked to stay away due to the trouble caused by what IWA called "extremist Khalistani elements".

IWA said: "These self appointed, unrepresentative individuals, 50 plus in number, then added to their demands by pulling down the banner of the IWA and physically manhandling the 10 or so organisers including 3 women and 3 senior citizens present and elected municipal representatives from both the Labour and Conservative parties".

The Lord Mayor of Coventry was scheduled to attend the event.

Over 100 people and IWA members who were prevented from attending the function raised pro-India slogans when the disruption led to the event's cancellation.

IWA, formed in Coventry in 1938, said there was a small police presence at the venue, but it did not help matters.

A meeting is planned with the chief constable of the region to discuss the incident, Bagri said.

"The unprovoked attack preventing a peaceful celebration by patriotic Indian workers and their families is disturbing and reprehensible...This denial of an Independence Day celebration is a denial of freedom of speech by terrorists in a city with an otherwise proud record against fascism and indeed a city that is the birth place of the IWA", IWA said.