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Khalistan Supporters Pull Down Indian Flag At London High Commission, India Summons Top British Diplomat In Protest

The Ministry of External Affairs termed the vandalism at London mission 'unacceptable' and demanded identification, arrest, and prosecution of those involved.

Representative photo of Khalistan supporters
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In a protest by Khalistan supporters at High Commission of India in London, a protestor on Sunday climbed the mission's balcony and pulled down the Indian flag.

In a video of the incident, a man is seen on the balcony bringing down the Indian flag. Towards the end of the video, a man believed to be an Indian official comes to the balcony from inside the mission and snatches the flag before the protestor could do any further vandalism.

Responding strongly to the breach of security at the Indian mission, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) summoned British Deputy High Commissioner Christina Scott in New Delhi to register its protest. 

In a statement, the MEA said "an explanation was demanded for the complete absence of British security" that let "separatist and extremist element" violate the limits of the Indian mission and vandalise the national flag.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and British High Commissioner Alex Ellis condemned the vandalism at the Indian mission.

In a tweet, Khan said, "I condemn the violent disorder and vandalism that took place at the Indian High Commission today. There is no place in our city for this kind of behaviour. An investigation has been launched by the Met into today’s events."

Ellis tweeted that the act was "totally unacceptable" and "disgraceful".

What happened at the London mission?

Supporters of Khalistan were protesting on Sunday at the High Commission of India in London with pro-Khalistan slogan. Amid the protest, one person climbed the mission's balcony and brought down the flag. The protesters were waving Khalistani flags during the protest.

The Khalistan movement refers to the separatist movement that seeks a Sikh nation to be carved out of India called Khalistan. The Khalistan movement waged a bloody insurgency in India for decades, primarily in Punjab, before it finally ebbed in 1990s. Though the armed element ebbed by the '90s, there exists strong support for the movement abroad, notably in the United Kingdom and Canada, that seeks to incite trouble in India.

Following the vandalism, officials from the Indian mission said the "attempted but failed" attack was foiled and the tricolour was now flying "grander". 

Scotland Yard said it was called to reports of disorder on Sunday afternoon and that a man has been arrested as its enquiries continue.

The Metropolitan Police statement said, "There was no report of any injury, however windows were broken at the High Commission building...Officers attended the location. The majority of those present had dispersed prior to the arrival of police. An investigation was launched, and one male was arrested nearby a short time later on suspicion of violent disorder. Enquiries continue."

In videos the incident, the man pulling down the Indian flag on the balcony is also seen waving the Khalistan flag on the balcony. London-based journalist Naomi Canton reported that the attempt was to replace the Indian flag on the pole with the Khalistan flag.

The Khalistan supporters' vandalism at the Indian mission in London comes at a time when authorities are cracking down on Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh and his radical organisation Waris Punjab De in Punjab.

How did India react?

In a strongly-worded statement issued after British Deputy High Commissioner Christina Scott was summoned, the MEA termed the incident "unacceptable" and said an explanation was demanded over the incident and flagged the complete lack of security.

The MEA also demanded arrest and prosecution of those involved in the vandalism.

The MEA said, "The senior-most UK diplomat in New Delhi was summoned late evening today to convey India’s strong protest at the actions taken by separatist and extremist elements against the Indian High Commission in London earlier in the day.

"An explanation was demanded for the complete absence of the British security that allowed these elements to enter the High Commission premises. She was reminded in this regard of the basic obligations of the UK Government under the Vienna Convention.

"India finds unacceptable the indifference of the UK Government to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in the UK.

"It is expected that the UK Government would take immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each one of those involved in today’s incident, and put in place stringent measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents."

Bigger flag put up at London mission

Following the vandalism at the Indian mission in London, an even bigger Indian national flag was put on the building. 

Photograph of a larger Indian flag covering much of the building housing the High Commission of India in London appeared in media reports.

This is not the first time in recent past that Indian or India-related entities have been targeted by Khalistan supporters.

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In Australia, four Hindu temples have been vandalised in the past months. Similar anti-India activities have been reported from Canada too. These incidents have been linked to Khalistani groups based abroad.

Reacting to the London incident, international relations expert Ian Hall noted, "Escalating public and diplomatic protests. If this spike in Sikh separatist activity isn't on the radar of Australian authorities, it must be. It is already complicating India-UK relations and we shouldn't think ourselves immune."

Not the first time London mission was targeted

The Sunday's vandalism was not the first time the High Commission of India in London was targeted. 

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Earlier in 2019, the Indian mission in London was targeted twice in violent protests.

In September 2019, the Indian mission in London suffered visible damage in the vandalism. A photograph was shared by the mission on Twitter at the time.

One Labour Party MP had also participated in the protest. MP Liam Byrne shared a video on Twitter and wrote, "Today thousands of people marched from Downing Street to the Indian High Commission to send a clear message to Mr Modi - you cannot silence the people of Kashmir."

(With PTI inputs)

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