Khalistan supporters gathered at the Embassy of India in Washington DC to hold a protest and incite violence.
The Khalistan supporters not just incited violence at the Embassy of India but also personally targeted Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Ambassador of India to the United States. They were apparently looking to repeat the attacks mounted earlier on the Indian mission in London and consulate in San Francisco.
However, the US Secret Service and local law enforcement personnel intervened and foiled such efforts. The Khalistan supporters also heckled journalists covering the scene and abused and assaulted senior Indian journalist Lalit K Jha, the Chief US Correspondent of the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) who covers Washington DC and White House.
The Embassy of India in Washington took note of the attack on Jha and formally condemned the incident.
The Khalistan supporters waved flags and spoke on loudspeakers against the Government of India and Ambassador Sandhu.
Khalistan supporters targeted Indian envoy
A group of Khalistan supporters gathered in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington and many of their speakers tried to incite violence, but timely intervention by an alert US Secret Service and local police prevented a repeat of London and San Francisco incidents of vandalism at the mission.
Separatist Sikhs heralded abusive language and openly threatened Indian Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu. The Ambassador was not in the embassy at the time of the protest. Some of the speakers were seen inciting fellow protestors to indulge in violence and break the windows and glasses of the building across the road.
In a video of the incident, a Khalistan supporter is seen saying, "The Indian government and their Ambassador, Mr Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the who is the face of terror diplomacy in the free world, we want to remind him that it is unacceptable for you guys to kill minorities, to rape Christian women, to kill innocent Sikh men, to kill Muslims, to people in Nagaland, and come here and say here this is the biggest democracy. Thsi hypocricy comes to an end now."
#WATCH | Washington DC: Earlier today Khalistanis protested and threatened Indian ambassador to the United States Taranjit Sandhu and the embassy staff. pic.twitter.com/ALL5E1Hjlg— ANI (@ANI) March 26, 2023
In a second video, a Khalistan supporter is seen issuing threats in Punjabi. He goes on to mention the incident when the car of former President Giani Zail Singh was attaked and its glasses were broken and threatens a repeat of the incident.
In photos, Khalistan supporters are seen with banners personally targeting Sandhu. In one photo, a banner with "Ambassador Taranjit, Shame On You For Being The Face Of Indian Terror Diplomacy" was seen.
US Secret Service, police intervened to prevent vandalism
In their speeches, most of the Khalistan supporters were seen trying to incite violence not only in India but here as well, including physical damage to the Indian Embassy property.
Sensing that things might go out of control, the Secret Service and the local police quickly brought in reinforcement and more forces were deployed and at least three police vans were placed in front of the Embassy.
At one point of time, five protesters quickly crossed the road and were about to break into the temporary marker of the embassy property near the pole unfurling the tricolour before they were asked to leave. Secret Service personnel, who were closely watching this, in no time rushed to the spot and asked the protesters to go back to the designated protest area, before any untoward incident could happen.
It appeared that the protesters had come prepared to do something similar like damaging Indian properties at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco and the Indian High Commission in London.
After the attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco by pro-Khalistan protesters last Sunday, India had registered its “strong protest” with the US Charge d'Affaires in New Delhi over the incident and asked the American government to take appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
During protest by Khalistan supporters at the Indian Embassy in Washington, the PTI reporter saw separatists bringing two bundles of wooden sticks that were kept in the park that has the status of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the embassy. The wooden sticks were similar to those which were used to break the door and windows and smash the glasses of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. While one bundle was used to display the separatist flag, the other bundle of about 20 sticks was kept aside.
Khalistan supporters attacked PTI reporter
Organisers of the protest had a very hostile approach towards the Indian reporter covering the protest. They not only obstructed this reporter by coming in front of the camera and placing the Khalistan flag on his face, kept pushing him, but also threatened dire consequences.
The reporter, apprehending physical harm, called 911 and ran towards the other side of the road for safety, looking for a police van.
One of the protesters abused the reporter and was asking questions like you have to tell me what are you going to report?
The organiser backed off as the reporter complained to the police about the potentially harmful activities of the protesters.
Sometime later, two of the protesters came towards the reporters, who were standing near the Secret Service personnel. One of them told the Secret Service that the reporter be asked to leave “my land” which is federal property.
They warned that if there is any violence and the reporter is physically harmed, they should not be blamed for this. Immediately the other protestor heralded abuse against the reporter, used unparliamentary words, and moved the two Khalistan flags that he had in his hand in such a way that its sticks hit the reporter’s left ear with a bang.
Thank you @SecretService 4 my protection 2day 4 helping do my job, otherwise I would have been writing this from hospital. The gentleman below hit my left ear with these 2 sticks & earlier I had to call 9/11 & rushed 2 police van 4 safety fearing physical assault👇. pic.twitter.com/IVcCeP5BPG— Lalit K Jha ललित के झा (@lalitkjha) March 25, 2023
The Secret Service personnel asked the reporter if he was ok. The secret Service warned the protester that this should not be repeated, and sought additional reinforcement from police personnel.
The law enforcement official told the protestors that this was public land, and the reporter was all within his right to stand there and cover their protest.
In their speeches, the protesters repeatedly pointing fingers towards the two reporters and used abusive words against them.
While they prevented the journalists from doing their work, a group of protesters filmed the reporter covering their protest, took pictures and asked provocative questions.
The separatists left the area around after 3 pm and one of them was seen keeping the bundle of wooden sticks in the trunk of the SUV.
The Indian Embassy condemned the attack on the PTI reporter.
"We have seen disturbing visuals of a senior Indian journalist from the Press Trust of India being abused, threatened & assaulted physically while covering the so-called ‘Khalistan protest’ in Washington DC earlier today," the Indian mission said in a statement.
"We understand that the journalist was first verbally intimidated, then physically assaulted, and fearing for his personal safety and well-being, had to call in law enforcement agencies, who responded promptly," the statement said.
The mission said it condemns such a grave and unwarranted attack on a senior journalist.
"Such activities only underscore the violent and anti-social tendencies of the so-called ‘Khalistani protestors’ and their supporters, who routinely engage in wanton violence and vandalism," it said.
It thanked the law enforcement agencies for their prompt response in the matter.
"This violence against @lalitkjha is outrageous and an assault on journalism. I condemn it in the strongest terms. Lalit is one of the fairest and most thoughtful journalists. Thank you to our security for protecting Lalit and the diplomats and consulate," Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna tweeted.
Latest targeting of Indian mission
This is the third time in recent days that an Indian diplomatic outpost has been targeted by Khalistan supporters.
Earlier, the Khalistan supporters vandalised the High Commission of India in London. A Khalistan supporters climbed the balcony of the High Commission and brought down the Indian flag. Later, the Indian consualte in San Francisco in the United States was vandalised.
On Sunday, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned the High Commisioner of Canada to raise the issue of threats to the Indian mission in Canada.
The Khalistan movement is a decades-old call for a separate Sikh nation to be carved out of India. The Khalistanis waged a bloody insurgency for the separatist cause for decades through terrorist means, primarily in Punjab, before it ebbed in early 1990s. While the armed insurgency ebbed in early 1990s, the support for Khalistan continues to be there in some quarters, particularly abroad where Khalistan retains support in safe havens like United Kingdom and Canada.
Lately, Indian missions and India-related sites, such as Hindu temples, have been attacked elsewhere as well, such as in Australia.
(With PTI inputs)