Pro-Khalistan rally in London today despite India’s concerns – The Hindu

A rally to mark India’s Independence Day and a pro-Khalistani demonstration dubbed the “London declaration” are both set to go ahead on Sunday, in Trafalgar Square, central London, despite New Delhi’s strong and publicly stated reservations about the latter, which it views as an impingement on its “territorial integrity”.

Last month, India issued a demarche over the pro-Khalistani rally. The rally is intended to drum up support and awareness for a non-binding referendum on a Sikh homeland in 2020. The British government, however, insisted that people had a right to gather together and demonstrate their views, provided they did so within the law.

A “We Stand with India” rally is set to take place on Trafalgar Square to celebrate 71 years of India’s Independence. “India is all about culture, diversity, growth and celebration,” says the group’s Facebook page set up last month.

The London Declaration rally is being organised by Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based group, though U.K. groups indicated they would be participating too. The pro-Khalistan Sikh Federation U.K. said “some members” would be attending the event, while Dal Khalsa U.K. urged people to join the rally.

Within Parliament, the Green Party’s co-leader Caroline Lucas is the only one to publicly back the rally, stating she stood in solidarity with those “fighting discrimination, and campaigning for a referendum around the world”.

Others to publicly support the rally include George Galloway, the former Labour Party and Respect Party MP, who made a video in support, comparing the right for a Sikh referendum to the right for a Scottish referendum.

False expectations

In a letter, Preet Gill MP, the chair of a parliamentary group on British Sikhs, said she wouldn’t be attending the rally due to “prior commitments” and advised constituents taking part to consult both the organisers to ensure they had the necessary permissions, and gauge if they had had contact with the Federation of Sikh Organisations that organised an annual protest in central London.

“History shows us that non-binding referendums have very little impact on governments of the UN, and run the risk of lacking credibility, wasting significant resources and building false expectations,” she continued in the letter from earlier this month.

Among those to have spoken out against the pro-Khalistan rally publicly is businessman Rami Ranger, the founder of Sun Mark and Chair of the British Sikh Association. He described the organisers of the rally as an “unelected self-appointed handful of separatists… Please stop dividing British communities, especially the Sikhs.”

“We have said that it seeks to violence, secessionism and hatred and we expect them to take into account the larger perspective of the relationship when they take a decision in such matters,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said earlier this week, of the rally.

Separatist activity

Indian concerns that Britain was too accommodating of separatist activity against India on its shores have been a long-running theme of tension between the two nations. Earlier this year, Britain was forced to apologise after an Indian flag was taken down and ripped on Parliament Square during a rally by pro-Khalistani activists.

Last year, it was only after India’s intervention that a rally to mark the death anniversary of militant Burnham Wani was not allowed to take place.