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Indian-Americans foil Sikh separatists’ stir outside Indian embassy in US

Ambassador Harsh Shringla unfurled the Tricolour near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside the embassy, surrounded by a large turnout of Indian-Americans and expatriates.

world Updated: Jan 28, 2019 18:46 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Washington/New Delhi
indian-americans,sikh,sikh separatists
Indian-American students, professionals, businessmen and homemakers joined expatriates and officials to outnumber and outstay Sikh separatists.(AFP)

Indian-American students, professionals, businessmen and homemakers joined expatriates and officials to outnumber and outstay Sikh separatists who had made a failed attempt to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations at the Indian embassy in Washington.

Ambassador Harsh Shringla unfurled the Tricolour near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside the embassy, surrounded by a large turnout of Indian-Americans and expatriates.

People familiar with developments dismissed a claim by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which organised the protest, that its members had burnt an Indian flag outside the embassy as “completely false”. “The photos and videos of the celebrations show no such thing took place. The claim is intended to cover up their flop show,” said a person regarding the claim made on SFJ website.

“They used a different image to make their claim. No Indian flag was burnt,” the person added.

The demonstration by SFJ attracted only around 20 people, who were completely outnumbered by flag waving Indians.

“This demonstrates the hollow claim of SFJ that they enjoy wide support. They are a fringe group backed by Islamabad, clearly bringing out the nefarious design of Pakistan to stir up trouble. In fact, most of the demonstrators were Pakistanis and not Sikhs,” a second person said.

In his speech, Shringla spoke about the contribution of Indian-Americans to ties between India and the US and outlined progress in bilateral relations.

The gathering relocated indoors later to listen to a recording of President Ram Nath Kovind’s Republic Day address.

Security arrangements for the event were unprecedented, with personnel from the US Secret Service, the state department’s bureau of diplomatic security, US park police, local metropolitan police and fire services crawling all over the flag-hoisting event.

The SFJ activists began gathering around noon, carrying Khalistan flags and placards condemning India, but they were no match for the Indian-Americans who had been waiting for them.

US law enforcement officials stood in a line, keeping the two sides apart, as voices and tempers rose on both sides.

The SFJ activists were moved to the sidewalk across the road, from where they continued the sloganeering, drowned out by patriotic songs from loudspeakers deployed by the embassy. Slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai”,”Vande Matra” and “Pakistan murdabad” drove away anti-India and pro-Khalistan slogans from the separatists.

“SFJ’s agenda is one of hate and bigotry funded by an agency that has funded terrorism in South Asia. It’s critical we stand together against this agency (ISI),” said Jay Kansara, director of government relations at the Hindu American Foundation.

Earlier, Sikhs of America denounced the SFJ protest, saying: “Sikhs reside and have businesses not only all over India but also boast a global presence. Such theatrical protests like flag burning are detrimental to the peace loving and harmony enhancing Sikh community everywhere.”

First Published: Jan 27, 2019 22:55 IST