A pro-India rally was organised at London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday in response to another by secessionists calling for a referendum on an independent Sikh nation,The Hindu Business Line reported.
Indian diaspora groups organised the “We Stand With India” and “Love My India” events to counter the pro-Khalistan “London Declaration for a Referendum 2020”, which was attended by more than 2,000 pro-Khalistan supporters from across the United Kingdom and Europe.
The United States-based group Sikhs for Justice organised the pro-Khalistan event, where demonstrators chanted “Khalistan Zindabad” and waved flags. Lord Nazir Ahmed, a non-affiliated member of the House of Lords, spoke at the rally. “I believe in Khalistan for my Sikh brothers and sisters,” said Ahmed, who had organised an anti-India rally outside the Indian High Commission on Republic Day earlier this year.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas had voiced her support.
Sikh separatist leader Jaswant Singh Thekedar, however, condemned the rally, claiming it was Pakistan-backed propaganda, ANI reported. He accused Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who was one of the organisers, of being a Pakistani stooge.
Meanwhile, at the pro-India rally, supporters waved the Indian tricolour, waved placards saying “India Jai Ho” and “Vande Mataram”, and played dhols (drums) in an attempt to drown out the speeches of the Khalistan supporters, PTI reported.
“Indian Sikhs do not want this Referendum 2020, they do not even know what this Referendum is about, who is organising and why,” said Navdeep Singh, one of the organisers.
“UK-India relations are strained at the moment and these omissions will not help,” said Kuldeep Shekhawat, president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP’s chapter in the United Kingdom. The pro-India rally was not about numbers but sending across the message that the diaspora stood for a united India “whatever happens”, The Hindu Business Line quoted him as saying.
A large posse of police personnel was present at the venue to keep the two groups apart.
The British government had refused to ban the Khalistan campaign and the demonstration despite India’s objections. Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a demarche notice to the United Kingdom against the proposed meeting. The British High Commission then issued a statement condemning the event.
On Friday, the British High Commission in India said people in the United Kingdom have the right to protest as long as they act within the law.