There is outrage within the Indian diaspora in the UK after a group of Khalistani extremists descended upon the Indian High Commission in London and attempted to grab the Indian tricolour, with alarm bells being sounded over its impact on UK-India bilateral ties and ongoing trade talks.
“Unless the UK government acts swiftly and decisively, I fear that this disgraceful attack on the High Commission of India in London will disrupt the otherwise flourishing India-UK bilateral relationship, especially as we seek to conclude a Free Trade Agreement (FTA),” said Param Shah, Director – UK, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
Indian officials said the "attempted but failed" attack by separatist groups waving Khalistani flags was quashed, and the tricolour was soon flying "grander" than ever on Sunday, March 19. The UK government issued an immediate condemnation, with Foreign Office Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad and British High Commissioner to the UK Alex Ellis among those speaking out.
But the Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK referenced past incidents of a similar nature and strongly condemned the “deplorable act” and called on the government to take "strict action".
FISI UK said: “Such attempts have occurred in the past, so it is concerning to see sparse security provided by the UK government at the Indian diplomatic premises that also goes against the basic obligations of the Vienna Convention.
“In this particular incident, an Indian High Commission braved the hooligans and restored the pride of India by taking the flag away from them. The Indian official had to act due to lack of appropriate security present at the premises.”
The Indian National Students' Association (INSA) UK also expressed deep concern and condemned the attack: “In addition to attacking our sovereignty and dignity, this act of violence puts our diplomats and staff in danger. We strongly condemn this act of aggression and call on the UK authorities to take immediate and decisive action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“We stand in solidarity with our country's representatives and will not rest until those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”
Several gurdwaras in the UK and British Sikh leaders also spoke out strongly against the violence.
Charan Singh Sekhon MBE, Founder & Chair, Seva Trust UK, said in a joint statement from community leaders: “Everyone has the right for peaceful protest, but the use of violence or threats against Indian High Commission staff and forcefully trying to remove Tiranga (Tricolour), the national flag of India, is not acceptable and we condemn these actions.
“Such actions cannot achieve anything apart from damaging UK & India ties and our community cohesion.”
Jaswinder Kumar, President of the Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha Bedford, and Gurmail Singh, vice-president of the Ramgarhia Sikh Society Bedford were among the community workers and Sikh activists to join in the condemnation.
Similar incidents in the past, when protesters have pelted the India House building with stones and also attacked diaspora members gathered for Independence Day celebrations, had resulted in a strong backlash followed by assurances of appropriate security measures at the diplomatic mission by the British government.
Insight UK said: “We urge the UK government to call out the extremists involved in attacks against the HCI, not just today but also in the past and take swift and strong action against them and ensure the safety and security of all diplomatic missions and personnel.”
Meanwhile in New Delhi, the Indian government summoned the senior-most UK diplomat to convey India’s strong protest at the actions taken by separatist and extremist elements against the Indian High Commission in London.
The Metropolitan Police said two members of security staff at the mission sustained minor injuries as windows of the High Commission building were broken. An investigation has been launched as a male was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder soon after the incident and police enquiries continue.