Srinagar: India is poised to lodge a ‘strong’ protest against lack of security measures to prevent the burning of its national flag outside the Indian high commission on Saturday, India’s Republic Day, hours after the Foreign Office insisted Britain does “not condone” such activities.
A group of Khalistan supporters burned one flag, stamped on others and raised anti-India slogans, holding placards with images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national security advisor Ajit Doval outside India House in the presence of some British police personnel, Hindustan Times reported.
The United Kingdom government expressed regret after media reports emerged that the Indian national flag was burnt during a demonstration by separatist groups outside the India High Commission in London on Republic Day, PTI reported.
“We are disappointed that anyone would choose to burn the Indian flag on any day, let alone the celebration of Republic Day, and we regret the upset that this will have caused,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added, “We congratulate India on…Republic Day celebration, and look forward to deepening our relationship further as we prepare to leave the European Union and forge new partnerships with key global allies.”
Videos and images of the protests show a group of pro-Khalistan supporters and Kashmiri outfit activists gathered outside the India House in Central London on January 26 waving placards against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chanting anti-India slogans.
Acknowledging that they had been made aware of the planned demonstration, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement, “On Saturday, 26 January a demonstration took place outside India House in Aldwych, WC2. An appropriate policing plan was in place.”
“There were no incidents of note and no arrests. No allegations of crime have been reported. We are aware of a social media video that appears to be from the demonstration outside India House in Aldwych on Saturday, 26 January. We are working to establish the exact circumstances of it,” the statement said.
Interestingly, the latest development came after the FCO had earlier stated that Britain “does not condone” the burning of national flags. “We are proud to be a country that fiercely protects the rights of individuals to peaceful protest and free speech as essential parts of a vibrant democracy, provided that demonstrators act within the law. We do not condone the burning of national flags, which is deeply offensive to most people,” an FCO spokesperson had said.
This is not the first time that such a thing has happened in the UK. During PM Modi’s visit in April last year, pro-Khalistani demonstrators along with Kashmiri separatist groups had assembled under the banner of a so-called “Minorities Against Modi’ group and desecrated the tricolor in Parliament Square.