India presses for legal action after tricolour torn down in London

London : The Indian government is pressing for legal action against Sikh and Kashmiri separatists who tore down an Indian flag during a protest in the UK against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, cut it into shreds with a kirpan and burnt it.

The protesters, chanting anti-Indian slogans, provocatively replaced it with a “Khalistan” and an “Azad Kashmir” flag.

The large tricolour had been one of 53 flags put up in Parliament Square to welcome Commonwealth leaders to the Commonwealth Summit.

Loveena Tandon, who has been a foreign correspondent in the UK for 20 years, has made a complaint about intimidation and abusive language by the protesters to the Metropolitan Police.

She watched the flag being torn down on April 18 whilst Modi was meeting Indian scientists at the Francis Crick Institute along with British PM Theresa May. Tandon went to interview the men responsible and they shouted swear words at her and screamed “fake news”.

“Despite a huge presence of policemen no one was able to stop them,” she told TOI. “I was pushed and my phone fell down. Their body language was very aggressive and I felt intimidated and unsafe. I was rescued by a man who screamed at them, then he was kicked and then the police came and escorted us off. They looked like the same group that had been at the protest organised outside the high commission of India on Republic Day. How could the organisers of this protest allow a group to bring down the flag of a country? I would never have believed this could happen in London.”

Two groups at the protest, Sikhs for Justice and Referendum 2020, were calling for a referendum on a separate Sikh state in the year 2020. Kashmiri separatists were also present as were Sikhs calling for the release of UK national Jagtar Singh Johal who has been detained in Punjab and accused of targeted killings.

Foreign Office minister Mark Field sent a personal text to a senior diplomat at the Indian high commission saying “he regretted the incident”, TOI was told. UK officials arranged for the Indian flag to be quickly replaced.

A ministry of external affairs spokesperson said: “We expect action, including legal, against the persons involved in the incident and their instigators. We are deeply anguished by the incident.”

“Police are investigating after an Indian flag in Parliament Square was pulled down at 1500 on April 18. The flag has been replaced. There have been no arrests. Enquiries continue,” a Metropolitan Police spokesman told TOI.

“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 Y K Sinha as soon as we were made aware,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “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.”

Source : TOI

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