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India raises flag ripping issue with UK

Vidya Ram London | Updated on April 19, 2018 Published on April 19, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s UK visit has been marred by demonstrations.   -  Reuters

India has expressed its concern to the UK authorities at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after an Indian flag was torn down in Parliament Square, where a protest by supporters of Khalistan and an independent Kashmir took place on Wednesday – the day of Narendra Modi’s bilateral meetings with Britain in London.

A source said that British authorities had responded with an immediate apology for the failure of police, who were present at the scene, to respond swiftly enough and have promised action would be taken, after India raised its concerns almost immediately after the incident on Wednesday afternoon. The flag, which stood alongside 52 others from Commonwealth nations, on Parliament Square ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, has also been replaced since.

A thorn in bilateral relations

The issue of British-based groups supporting separatist movements in India has been a running issue in bilateral relations. Last year, India sent Britain a note verbale over its concerns about a planned rally in Birmingham to commemorate the death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

Ahead of CHOGM, and amid news that the rallies were due to take place, India had warned Britain of the potential for disruptive, violent action, a source said.

The rally in Parliament Square was called by Lord Nazir Ahmed, a Member of the House of Lords who regularly speaks in favour of separatist movements against India.

Protests

A group of silent protesters, numbering around 100, dressed in white, gathered in Parliament Square, on Wednesday, with signs such as “justice for our child” and “politics minus rape” to express

A group of silent protesters, numbering around 100, dressed in white, gathered in Parliament Square, on Wednesday, with signs such as “justice for our child” and “politics minus rape” to express "solidarity and publicly express their grief and sorrow" in the face of the rapes.   -  Photo: Vidya Ram

There are also concerns around the treatment of Loveena Tandon, an India Today Group television correspondent based in London, who was cornered by a group of protesters after expressing her concerns about the treatment of the flag. “I saw several people pulling down the flag and cutting it up with scissors that they had with them,” she told BusinessLine. Police were forced to intervene to help Tandon, after she was accosted by a group of protesters, verbally abused and having the phone on which she was filming knocked out of her hand.

The Indian Journalists Association of the UK expressed its concerns over “threats and violence” faced by journalists. “We…call upon the British police to bring to book wrongdoers upon receiving any complaint on the matter from our members,” said IJA president Ashis Ray.

A number of separate peaceful protests and support rallies took place on the day, including one focused on expressing concern about the speed of action on the rapes in Kathua and Unnao.

Published on April 19, 2018
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