India urges UK to take action against protesters who tore tricolour during Modi visit
Some groups protesting against atrocities in India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in London turned violent on Thursday after a tricolour was torn down from one of the official flagpoles set up for all 53 Commonwealth countries.world Updated: Apr 20, 2018 22:33 IST
India on Friday expressed “deep anguish” at the Indian flag being pulled down, torn and stamped on during protests on Wednesday and said it expects the UK government to take action, including legal measures, against those responsible.
Britain officially apologised on Thursday for the incident that prompted a strong protest from the Indian high commission. It occurred in Parliament Square as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was engaged in bilateral talks and an address to the Indian diaspora before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We are deeply anguished over the incident involving our national flag. The UK has regretted the incident at the highest level. The flag was replaced soon after it was brought to the notice of authorities.
“We expect action, including legal action, not only against those responsible on the ground but also those behind the act.”
Campaign group Sikh Federation (UK), which was part of the anti-India protests on Wednesday, said India had “over-reacted” to the incident.
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement:“While people have the right to hold peaceful protests, we are disappointed with the action taken by a small minority in Parliament Square and contacted high commissioner Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha as soon as we were made aware.
“The visit to the UK by Prime Minister Modi has strengthened our relationship with India and we look forward to working even more closely together on a number of important areas.”
Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said: “The impromptu removal of the Indian flag by protesters in Parliament Square...towards the end of the demonstration was intended to make a political point against the policies of the Narendra Modi-led Indian government.”
A complaint has been filed with Scotland Yard by broadcast journalist Loveena Tandon, who said she faced intimidation and worse from the protestors in Parliament Square. The Indian Journalists Association condemned the violence and threats faced by journalists.
Tandon, who has video footage of her intimidation, said in a statement: “The incident took place on the day the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, was having bilateral talks with Prime Minister Theresa May's government In London ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018.
“Iwas covering the events on the day, interacting with the huge turnout of people who came to support Mr Modi and some even to protest. Thehistoric Parliament Square in London was shining, with 53 colourful flags of nations of the Commonwealth. It was just after2 pmwhen there was unusual noise just under the Indian flag post.
“To my shock, the protesters, while raising anti-India slogans, brought the Indian flag down, tore it with scissors until it was completely destroyed. It happened within minutes and there are videos, now viral, demonstrating the same. Despite a huge presence of policemen, no one managed to stop them through this undemocratic act.
“I reached out to one group asking why they did that and what their demand was. I was polite. Within seconds, I was pushed, abused and intimidated. A gentlemen nearby had to rescue me and eventually the police came to lead me to safety.”
Tandon said she was issuing the statement as “a journalist and a woman”. She said the “unparliamentary words” used against her while she was doing her job with sincerity was “unacceptable”. Instead of taking the opportunity to talk to her about their demands, the protesters had turned against her, she said.
“A gentleman who came to my rescue later told me that while escorting me out he was kicked twice. I kept telling the protesters ‘I am sorry- you cannot speak to me like this.’ But they continued to abuse me and anyone who tried to help,” she added.
She further said, “I am also deeply concerned with regard to security at this venue in the heart of London. It is well known to all that this demonstration could have turned dangerous. How could the organisers allow a group to bring down the flag of a country without permission from anyone or without dignity and defile it, is a wonder. I have covered events all over the world and I would never have believed that this could happen in London.”
First Published: Apr 20, 2018 15:49 IST