The UK has reportedly rejected the Indian government’s request to prevent a pro-Khalistan rally from taking place in London on August 12, Sunday. Scheduled to be held at Trafalgar Square, the event is organised by US-based separatist group- Sikhs for Justice, and will call for a “referendum” on creation of Khalistan. A UK government spokesperson said, “In the UK, people have the right to gather together and demonstrate their views, provided they do so within the law.” They added, “However, we will not tolerate any groups who spread hate or deliberately raise community fears and tensions by bringing disorder and violence to our towns and cities and the police have comprehensive powers to deal with such activities.”
The Indian High Commission has acknowledged that they had received a similar response. Sources said the response was sent to Indian officials over the “note verbales” sent to the Theresa May government earlier, requesting to ban the event. Not only the Indian government, even members of the Sikh diaspora in the UK are voicing their opposition for the event. British businessman and philanthropist, Rami Ranger recently tweeted, “These handful of Sikhs are an embarrassment to Sikhs at large and also an impediment to progress in Punjab.” Jasbir Singh Parmar, chairman of British Asian Chamber of Commerce UK, said the call for referendum is a “mischief making by people who have no connections with Punjab.”
Around 10,000 Sikhs are expected the attend the event. Many of the participants are being brought from other parts of the country to London, to seek the issuance of a “London Declaration” over the “Referendum 2020” call. Paramjeet Singh Pamma is the key organiser of the rally. He is wanted in India over his suspected involvement in twin bomb blasts in Punjab in 2010. He is also accused as the main conspirator in the 2009 murder of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat president Rulda Singh. Pamma allegedly left India in 1994-95 and has been living in the UK since 1999.
India to keep a close eye on the rally
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We have taken up the matter with the UK government. We have also issued a demarche and we expect that the UK government does not allow any such group to use its country whose intention is to spread hate and which can affect our bilateral ties. We have told them the intention of the event is the same.” The Indian government has meanwhile, termed the rally an “anti-India activity”.
An Intelligence Bureau official said that Indian security agencies are watching the major event closely. The fact that the event will be held three days prior to India's Independence Day, has prompted a very high alert to also be declared. The official said that the event has the backing of Pakistan's ISI. They said that it is a way of announcing on the world stage the return of the Khalistan movement. The official added that it is unfortunate the UK government decided not to ban the event.
Such security agencies believe Pak's Pakistani Lt. Col Shahid Mehmood Malhi is the brainchild behind the bringing back of the movement. The Inter-Services Intelligence is funding and prompting the protest. Security agencies have intercepted digital, particularly social media, chatter to make this conclusive claim. Every possible attempt has been made by the ISI, over the years, to revive the Khalistan movement. Pakistan has been nurturing a large number of the terrorists who created havoc in Punjab, for over 15 years.
Referendum posters were put up prominently at Pakistani gurdwaras, Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib during the pilgrimage of Sikh jathas. Punjab Police Chief Suresh Arora said, “The people of Punjab have rejected those who spread hate, violence and propagate the secessionist agenda. We are keeping a close track of their activities, especially during the August 12 gathering in London, where Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) plans to make a case for secessionism. Punjab Police are capable of dealing with the fringe elements. Since a lot of the propaganda happens online, the security agencies are also monitoring social media platforms and immediate action is being taken.”
Indian agencies seem to have established a strong link between SFJ, radicals in Germany, UK, Canada, gangsters in Punjab, and the ISI, through online activities of the prime proponents of the movement. Sources in the security agencies said the ISI has earmarked a dedicated budget for the launch and implementation of what they call 'Operation Express'.