India has asked the authorities in the United Kingdom to ensure that public order was maintained when a protest march is proposed to be undertaken in London by Pakistani-backed Kashmiri groups on 27 October coinciding with Diwali to protest the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday.
“In the past, we have seen vandalism at the high commission (in London). We have spoken to the UK Government and we hope the authorities will take action. They have assured us, steps will be taken so that there is no repetition of the past,” he said at a media briefing.
The remarks by New Delhi assume significance against the backdrop of the failure of the authorities in London to prevent vandalism on 15 August at the Indian High Commission which was attacked by pro-Pakistan groups with stones and eggs. India had registered a strong protest over it with London. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had taken up the matter with his British counterpart Boris Johnson.
Kashmiris living in Burton are planning to visit London to take part in an anti-India demonstration to mark Diwali as ‘Black Day’ to register their protest against the developments in J&K. Members of the Kashmir Forum and mosques have arranged free coaches to take people to the planned protest.
The protesters plan to begin their march from Downing Street and make their way through the streets of London, ending up outside the Indian mission.
Sources in the British High Commission in New Delhi said London respected the right to protest but strongly condemned the damage caused to diplomatic missions. The safety and security of diplomatic missions in the UK and their staff was of utmost concern and London fully recognised its obligations under the Vienna Convention, they added.
Sources emphasised that the protesters’ rights needed to be balanced with the rights of others to go about their business without fear or intimidation.
The issue had figured in the British Parliament on Wednesday with Prime Minister Boris Johnson making it clear that violence and intimidation were wholly unacceptable to his government.
Meanwhile, a few UK elected representatives of Indian origin have moved the London administration to prevent this March. In response to a letter by Indian-origin London Assembly member Navin Shah, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has condemned the plan for the protest march, saying it would deepen divisions in the UK capital.
He has appealed to the organisers and prospective participants to cancel the march in the larger interest of public order in London. However, he stated that a decision on banning the protest march could only be taken by the British Home Secretary or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.