Eastern Eye (UK)
Delhi voices concern over Sikh ‘separatist elements’
HUNDREDS PROTEST AGAINST HUNT FOR EXTREMIST LEADER
INDIAN authorities said last Sunday (26) they had summoned Canada’s top diplomat in New Delhi after Sikh protesters gathered outside India’s diplomatic mission in Canada.
According to Canadian media reports, hundreds of people gathered outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver last Saturday (25) over India’s hunt for fugitive Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh.
The Indian foreign ministry said it summoned Canada’s high commissioner on Saturday “to convey our strong concern about the actions of separatist and extremist elements against our diplomatic Mission and Consulates in Canada this week”.
“It is expected that the Canadian government will take steps to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of our diplomatic premises so that they are able to fulfil their normal diplomatic functions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.
A manhunt for Singh, a radical Sikh preacher, has lasted more than a week, with mobile internet cut and gatherings of more than four people banned in parts of the northern state of Punjab. Around 100 people have been arrested.
Reports earlier this week said he had fled to Nepal.
Singh rose to prominence in recent months demanding the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, and with his hardline interpretation of Sikhism at rallies in rural pockets of Punjab.
Twitter has blocked for Indian users the accounts of several prominent Sikh Canadians who criticised the crackdown, including MP Jagmeet Singh, reportedly following Indian government requests. The Twitter accounts of several Punjab-based journalists and prominent members of the Sikh community have also been withheld, according to media reports.
India summoned the most senior British diplomat last week after some Singh supporters entered and vandalised the Indian High Commission in London.
India also registered a “strong protest” with the US State Department, as well as the US embassy in New Delhi, after men smashed doors and windows at the Indian consulate in San Francisco.
In the UK, British MPs in the Commons demanded action against “Khalistani hooligans” and the safety of India’s diplomatic staff as they raised the vandalism by protesters at the Indian High Commission in London.
London MPs (Conservative) Bob Blackman called for a debate in Parliament to discuss steps to ban groups behind the violence, while Labour’s Gareth Thomas asked the Leader of the House of Commons about the steps being taken to ensure there is “no repeat of such behaviour”.
Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt reiterated foreign secretary James Cleverly’s previous statement announcing a review of the protection measures at India House in Aldwych, central London. “We strongly condemn the vandalism and violent acts that took place outside the Indian High Commission in London. It was a completely unacceptable action against the High Commission and its staff,” Mordaunt told MPs.
“There is ongoing work with the Metropolitan Police to review the protection measures around the High Commission, and any changes will be made to ensure the safety and security of its staff so that they can go about their business, serving both this country and India,” she said.
Blackman said that the attack on March 19 was the sixth time in as many years that the Indian High Commission was targeted.
“The hooliganism of Khalistani hooligans outside the Indian high commission on Sunday is a disgrace to this country,” he said.
“Khalistani militants are operating across the world; Canada, the US and Australia saw similar attacks over the weekend. We are harbouring Khalistani terrorists in this country right now. Can we have a debate in government time on what action we can take to ensure that these terrorists are held to account and banned in this country,” he said.