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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Unacceptable, India tells UK on vandalism by ‘Pak-incited elements’

Tuesday’s violent protest outside the high commission is the second incident in a month.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2019 21:43 IST
Rezaul H Laskar and Prasun Sonwalkar
Rezaul H Laskar and Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/ London
Premises of Indian High Commission in London were damaged in a protest that took place over the situation in Kashmir.
Premises of Indian High Commission in London were damaged in a protest that took place over the situation in Kashmir.(ANI)

India on Wednesday conveyed to the UK its strong concern over protests by “Pakistan-incited elements” that resulted in the vandalisation of the Indian high commission in London twice in less than a month.

Tuesday’s violent protest outside the mission was the second such incident since August 15. Some 2,500 protestors from across the UK, most of them of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin, joined the “Kashmir Freedom March” from Parliament Square to the high commission at Aldwych. The protestors, including pro-Khalistani elements, carried flags of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Khalistan.

The protestors threw stones, bottles, eggs, tomatoes and shoes at the Indian high commission, smashing several windows.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We consider these incidents to be unacceptable and have strongly urged the Government of UK to take action against those involved, and take necessary steps to ensure the normal functioning of our mission and the safety and security of our personnel.”

India, he said, is “deeply concerned by the reports of unruly demonstrations by Pakistan-incited elements and consequent organised vandalism of the property of the high commission of India in London”. Tuesday’s protest was the second time in recent weeks that such an incident had affected the “security and the normal functioning of our mission”, he added.

Scotland Yard said there had been two arrests for “criminal damage” but didn’t give further details.

The official Twitter handle of the Indian mission tweeted a photo of a smashed window and said: “Another violent protest outside the Indian High Commission in London today, 3 September 2019. Damage caused to the premises.”

Independence Day celebrations in London by the Indian diaspora too had been disrupted by Pakistan-backed protestors and pro-Khalistani elements, who pelted stones and eggs at the building and the gathering outside.

Following the protests on August 15 and 17, one of which was organised by the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Indian side had conveyed its concerns to British authorities about damage to the Indian mission and the harassment of members of the Indian community by Pakistan-backed elements.

New Delhi has also been concerned about the manner in which the continuing protests have been played down by British officials.

Britain’s Foreign Office had called last month’s protests as “overwhelmingly peaceful” while Scotland Yard called them “largely peaceful”. A Foreign Office spokesperson described Tuesday’s protest too as “largely peaceful” and said police ensured a safe perimeter. The UK takes the security of all diplomatic missions “extremely seriously” and the Foreign Office was “in close contact with our colleagues at the high commission throughout the day to ensure their safety and ability to work”, the spokesperson added.

Responding to the Indian mission’s tweet on Tuesday, London mayor Sadiq Khan had tweeted: “I utterly condemn this unacceptable behaviour and have raised this incident with @metpoliceuk to take action.”

Indian officials believe the protests are part of Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue following New Delhi’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.

India has been making complaints in the form of ‘note verbale’ or ‘demarches’ since the 1980s when Khalistani and Kashmiri separatist forces were operating openly in the UK, raising funds as well as staging demonstrations, people familiar with developments said.

The position has always been - also revealed in declassified documents - that democratic dissent and protests are a matter of right and part of freedom of expression. It is a matter of balancing these rights against the duties that London is obliged to perform under the Vienna Convention, they said.