The Indian government has conveyed its concerns to the UK over incidents of violence during a protest by Pakistani supporters outside the Indian High Commission in London on Independence Day. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his phone call with all the world leaders on Tuesday afternoon, spoke to the Indian Prime Minister Modi. The two leaders, who will be meeting at the G7 summit on this weekend, agreed on the importance of the UK-India partnership and the need to build on it further, particularly through trade and economic ties and through the living bridge that links the two countries. Prime Minister Modi said there are immense possibilities for the UK and India which would increase prosperity in both countries.
However according to the 10 Downing Street statement, Johnson and Modi discussed the current situation in Kashmir and the UK Prime Minister emphasised that UK views the issue of Kashmir as one for India and Pakistan to resolve bilaterally, and underlined the importance of resolving it through dialogue.
The Prime Minister’s Office in India in a statement however highlighted that Modi also drew attention to the challenges posed by vested interests pursuing their motivated agenda, including by violent means. In this context he referred to the violence and vandalism perpetrated by a large mob against the High Commission of India in London on the last Independence Day of India. Prime Minister Johnson regretted the incident and assured that all necessary steps would be taken to ensure safety and security of the High Commission, its personnel and visitors.
What happened on 15th August outside India House?
Violent clashes erupted as an estimated 5000 protestors began demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission in London on India's independence day ie.15th August. Protestors, many waving Pakistani and Azad Kashmir flag descended outside India House as tension between India and Pakistan continued to soar over scrapping of Article 370 and 35A.
The anti-India protest, organised by Pakistani groups, in Khalistani and Kashmiri separatist outfits, were separated from the pro-India demonstrators outside India House by metal barriers. Pakistani origin protestors from various UK towns with substantial Pakistani diaspora population like Luton, Bradford, Birmingham etc were brought in chartered buses to head towards High Commission in London. One of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's closest friends, Zulfi Bukhari allegedly also specially travelled to London to join the protests and instigate the crowd of protestors.
As the clashes began, witnesses claimed that Police and Indian diaspora, who attended Indian independence day at India House with friends and family, were hit with stones, bottles and eggs. They had assembled at the High Commission to attend cultural programs including song and dance performances of women and young children. The protestors were armed with potatoes, crates of eggs, avocados, mineral water bottles etc. They mobbed the High Comission from both sides, ran over the roads, blocked all vehicular traffic around the area and surrounded the Indian gathering from all sides.
The police and administration seemed unprepared for what was happening. While the mounted cavalry was trying its best to keep the protesters away from the gathering and the High Commission building on one side, the protestors on the other end of the building were closing in.
Earlier, the Met Police had confirmed that it had been aware of the protests and had therefore made appropriate policing arrangements, which included considerable number of officers on foot as well as officers mounted on horses. However, the turnout was expected to be much bigger after Indian government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
After a number of SOS calls to 999 from concerned parents and exchanges with some of the dignitaries including the High Commission, finally after 3 hours, police-reinforcements came along and pushed one side of the protestors out and enabled for the back door of the High Commission to be opened so that the children and women could be safely evacuated.
Scotland Yard tried to tackle and restrain the perpetrators. According to the Met Police there was one injury but described it as 'a largely peaceful protest' involving a few small incidents. The Scotland Yard has reportedly said that it has made four arrests so far.
Britain’s Foreign Office on Friday described the protest as “overwhelmingly peaceful”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the violence.
In a statement, Met Police said, “The event was largely peaceful but officers did have to react and deal with a small number of incidents as they happened. In total there were four arrests for Section 4 of the Public Order Act, affray, obstruction of police and possession of an offensive weapon.
“Public order trained officers were policing today's demonstration as part of a planned operation. One person was injured during the demonstrations," it said.
On August 17, the UK branch of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Pakistan, reportedly organised another noisy protest outside the Indian mission, raising concern among Indian authorities over Britain allowing space to such groups.
People present condemn the attack
Pravin Patel, the 73 year old former Chairman of Sardar Patel Memorial Society, had his forehead cut when he was hit by a bottle of mineral water. He said his placard which read as “We welcome Modi as PM” was first snatched from him and then a bottle was thrown straight at him. No one was allegedly arrested for the crime.
Minal Jaiswal from the group Indians in London, who was present at the scene, in a message which was attributed to London's Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “When we were walking to Indian High Commission for the cultural event to celebrate Indian independence day, we saw thousands of 'peaceful' protestors coming with eggs. Lot of our community people with children were planning to go back because of they were concerned for their children. Is London really safe?
“I was a woman in the forefront, standing with others with their patriotic belief, waving flags. It's good to have passion for your motherland. At the same time I am disappointed to see that those who have come to the UK have forgotten their own culture. Men made dirty gestures and body shamed me. When I spoke to Police they were scared, because there were few compared to the number of protesters. Those who claimed they came for humanity sake, where is the humanity when you are throwing bottles, sticks at women and children?”
Vinod Tikoo, Community activist, Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre in a letter that was signed by 110 people against the crimes committed on that day said, “We urge the Mayor of London and Met Police to investigate the failures on maintaining the law and order and allowing illegal protests to be carried out outside Indian High Commission on 15th August. Was the necessary permission in place for 5000 people to congrerate in a space less than 0.2-square mile area, and if yes what safety norms were followed?...
“How were all these protestors allowed to carry projectiles like Crates and crates of eggs, potatoes, avocadoes, smoke balls, sticks etc? Why was there no warning, announcements to the protestors by Police throughout the afternoon to not throw projectiles at public? Why were people who were throwing loaded water bottles, smoke bombs etc not apprehended? The inaction in this situation seems to be setting a precedent for future counter- protests if strict action is not taken by the authorities to ban organisers of this protest from any future protests and punish those who caused bodily harm and body-shaming during the protests specially torturing young children and women...
“I urge the Met Police and London Mayor to take serious note of the hostilities specially given there were vulnerable children as young as 4 years old, elders and women who were heckled, injured and trapped for over 3 hours from all sides by these pre-meditated protestors encouraged by Pakistani establishment and Pakistani diaspora leadership in the UK who were supporting these hostile protests.
“We urge Mayor of London to carry out full investigation on the lack of police cover available despite having full knowledge of the scale of the protests and take appropriate actions against those who failed their duties on the day...”
Poonam Joshi, a reporter with ANI, was seen bravely crossing over to snatch away the Indian flag, from the hands of protestors who tore it apart and stamped over it. Her act of bravery and sentiment as an Indian to protect her country's 'dignity' was applauded by the community.
Community leaders come forward in support
Lord Jitesh Gadhia, wrote a comment piece in The Daily Telegraph jointly with former CIA Director, General David Petraeus. Their analysis remains tough yet a constructive message for both Pakistan and India. The highlights of the article are as following:
“Islamabad is trying to internationalise Kashmir issue to distract attention from domestic failings. Prime Minister Imran Khan would be well advised to stop expending precious diplomatic and financial capital on the Kashmir issue and focus instead on development of his country, which stands on verge of bankruptcy in need of IMF bailout.
“What Pakistan has long resisted accepting is that the country’s most serious existential threat is not India; it is internal extremists – together with inadequately developed economic opportunities.
“Since 1947 independence, India has outperformed Pakistan on virtually every economic and social indicator: India’s GDP per capita at over USD 2,000, outpaces its neighbour by almost 40%; infant mortality rate in Pakistan is almost twice that of India, and literacy rates are also lagging behind
“Fundamental calculation from Prime Minister Modi appears to be that fully integrating Kashmir into India will unlock reverse “triple talaq” by improving security, enhancing prosperity, and unifying nation-state. Much depends on quality of execution. Though India’s tactics may be questioned, strategy of equalising rights of all citizens is difficult to fault.
“Beyond averting conflict, big prize awaits both nations by unlocking human and economic potential. Huge talents of global Indian and Pakistani diaspora evident from Silicon Valley to City of London. It would be a great human tragedy if territorial dispute over Kashmir diverts one-fifth of world’s population from fulfilling its true destiny.”
Trupti Patel, President, Hindu Forum of Britain wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel, regarding the hate crime and antisocial behaviour of gangs of anti-Indian protesters. She said, “Police had prior knowledge of this Independence Day protest, called as a ‘Black Day’ by the PM of Pakistan. Lord Nazir Ahmed who was a part of the organisers and spoke with hate and venom against the Indian Community...As many UK TV channels for Pakistani audience were creating mass hysteria for over a week prior to the event, surely the Police must have had information about Pakistani crowd being ferried in from across UK to protest at the HCI...
“Home Secretary, you can well imagine how threatened, beleaguered and terrified the besieged Indian, men, women & children felt, surrounded on all sides, by baying violent gangs. The Indian community was let down by the police who were not well prepared and were woefully slow to respond to bring in additional police units. We also feel let down by the Mayor of London, whose arrangements for the event were woefully inadequate.
“I would like to meet you personally with a small delegation to discuss this matter at the earliest. This lapse needs thorough investigation. I know you will be sympathetic to our cause as we were the victims of this hateful crowd.”
Anil Bhanot, Founding Member of Hindu Council UK, said that when he arrived to celebrate India’s eventual sovereignty at the abrogation of the special political status to Kashmir the entire Kingsway was chock-a-block with coaches from Midlands and North with Pakistanis come to demonstrate at India House. The demonstration was tense with no room to move.
“To my mind, the special status of article 370 had led to thousands being killed, the ethnic cleansing of over half a million Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, the region remaining undeveloped as the Muslim youths have to go and find jobs in neighbouring states of India. The Kashmiri Abdullah political dynasty seemed only interested in holding onto their power base while other Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists suffered economically and culturally.
“What of this so called ‘Muslim majority’? The troubled area is just 5 districts – Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramullah, Kulgam and Pulwama – representing 15% of the total geographical area of Indian Kashmir and also only 15% Muslim population out of the total population, with 85% supporting India and the abrogation of Article 370. There are of course Muslims in other 17 districts too, like Kargil, but all other Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists want to unite with India fully. The so called ‘Muslim majority’ is in fact in the Kashmir occupied by Pakistan (POK), not in the Indian Jammu & Kashmir (& Ladhak – Buddhist) state.
“It looked as though the Kashmiris from POK and other Pakistanis came to demonstrate in their droves. Along with them there were 3 or 4 Labour Party MP’s mainly from Pakistani origin came to demonstrate the democratic decision of a sovereign nation India, thus showing no regard for democracy and failing their other Indian constituents. Pak-i-stan – the land of the ‘Pure’, a literal meaning – was created for Muslims to remain ‘pure’ of the Kaffir Infidel Hindus but now in the UK, where we worked hard for equality, for these British Labour MP’s to come to demonstrate to maintain this ‘purity’, this ‘special status’ for their fellow Muslims in India is beyond today’s thinking.
“Jeremy Corbyn their leader tweeting to support the ‘supremacist’ demands of his MP’s is rather frightening, the Labour Party is known to have become anti-Semitic but it seems, now, it has become anti-Hindu too. The Conservative party’s confused statements rather than openly coming out to fully support the Indian Government does need clarification too. However since I had bad experience from Jeremy Corbyn in his attempts to divide our Hindu community through the caste legislation, whilst the Conservative party supported us then, I think it is safe to assume after his support for a special status of Kashmiri Muslims supremacy, that under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour Party has indeed become anti-Hindu.”