A tricolour was torn down from a flagpole set up for all 53 Commonwealth countries as anti-Modi protesters turned violent at the Parliament Square in London on Wednesday. The protesters at one point had also surrounded the Mahatma Gandhi statue at the square with their banners and flags. A senior Indian official associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit said the Indian flag was replaced soon after.
“Police are investigating after an Indian flag in Parliament Square was pulled down at 1500 (UK time) on Wednesday, 18 April. The flag has been replaced. There have been no arrests. Enquiries continue,” said a Metropolitian statement.
A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesperson said, “While people have the right to hold peaceful protests, we are disappointed with the action taken by a small minority in Parliament Square and contacted High Commissioner Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha as soon as we were made aware.
The police also had to step in to rescue a senior broadcast journalist from one fo the leading Inidan media channel who was caught in a violent scrum with the pro-Khalistani protesters. The pro-Khalistani demonstrators from Sikh Federation UK and demonstrators from the so-called “Minorities Against Modi” group, led by Pakistani-origin peer Lord Ahmed, were among nearly 500 protesters who descended upon Parliament Square. These included groups led by some Kashmiri separatist groups.
Officials involved with prime ministerial visit to UK said that they are concerned about the more aggressive elements that hijacked the tone of the protests. Protests and demonstrations are “part and parcel of any democratic society” as long as they remain peaceful, they added.
PM Modi landed in the United Kingdom on Wednesday for bilateral talks and the multilateral Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). He received a mixed greeting on his arrival in UK. Pro-Modi supporters welcomed him waving banners such as “Chak De India” and “Jai Hind” outside Downing Street and nearby Parliament Square while anti-Modi protesters from Caste Watch UK and South Asia Solidarity group waved banners such as ‘Modi, you have blood on your hands’ and ‘Modi Not Welcome’. They were joined by other protesters carrying images the eight-year-old rape and murder victim from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, and Gauri Lankesh, the Indian journalist who was shot allegedly by right-wing activists at her doorstep last year.
The group also included representatives of several Indian women’s groups in the UK, wearing white as part of their silent protest against “atrocities that are taking place in India”.