British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday criticised a proposed day-long Kashmir protest planned by anti-India demonstrators in London on Sunday, saying any violent protest or intimidation was “wholly unacceptable”, Hindustan Times reported.
The protest will coincide with Diwali. A rally is scheduled to begin at Downing Street and conclude outside India House. Scotland Yard expects around 10,000 people to join the demonstration, and has prepared a policing plan.
India’s decision to rescind Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status, and impose a communications and security lockdown in the region, drew condemnation from many quarters though most governments backed India’s position that Kashmir was its internal matter. The restrictions are now being eased slowly.
There were violent protests in London on August 1 and September 3. The protests in September saw the Indian High Commission being vandalised, forcing London Mayor Sadiq Khan and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to issue strongly worded criticisms. Two people were arrested for the incident.
Now, ahead of Sunday’s event, the Indian community in the United Kingdom has petitioned Khan and leading figures in the government. Conservative MP Bob Blackman raised the matter in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“In this House, we defend forever the right to peaceful protest, yet on August 15, and just three weeks ago, pro-Pakistani organisations held violent protests outside the Indian High Commission,” the parliamentarian told Johnson. “This Sunday, there is the threat of 10,000 people being brought to demonstrate outside the Indian High Commission on Diwali – the most holy day for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. What action will the government take to prevent violent protests this Sunday?”
In response, Johnson said: “I join my honourable friend, who speaks strongly and well for his constituency, in deploring demonstrations that end up being intimidating in any way.”
The prime minister said he had spoken to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who will raise the matter with the police. “We must all be clear in this House that violence and intimidation anywhere in this country are wholly unacceptable,” Johnson added.
In a letter, Blackman urged Sadiq Khan to do everything to ensure that the protest is not held. He added that “Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist diasporas are worried that authorities in the UK are not doing enough to protect them”.
Last week, Khan had condemned the planned protest and urged its organisers to call it off. However, in a letter to London Assembly member Navin Shah the mayor pointed out that he had no power to ban the protest. “As mayor, I will continue to do all I can to extend the hand of friendship to Londoners of Indian origin – who continue to make such an incredible contribution to our city,” Khan wrote. “I want to ensure they always feel respected, valued and made to feel safe in London, and that London remains a welcoming place to people from India and around the world.”
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