The Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Dorwaiswami, who was touring Scotland this week was blocked from entering a gurdwara in the city of Glasgow by pro-Khalistan extremists, an incident the Indian mission dubbed as “disgraceful” before reporting it to the UK government.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the High Commission of India in London said that three people from outside Scotland “deliberately disrupted“ the visit on Friday evening, and one even attempted to violently force open the diplomatic vehicle as senior diplomats arrived at Glasgow Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib on Albert Drive.
As they hurled threats and abuses, the High Commissioner (HC) and Consul General of India (CG) decided to leave the premises to avert any further altercation.
“On September 29, 2023, three persons — all from areas outside Scotland — disrupted a planned interaction organised by the Gurdwara Committee for the community, the High Commissioner (HC) and the Consul General of India (CG),” said the High Commission of India statement.
“This interaction was to discuss community and consular issues. The organisers included senior community leaders, ladies and Committee members, and a member of (the) Scottish Parliament. They were threatened and abused by these elements. In an effort to prevent any potential altercation, the HC and CG decided to leave the premises shortly upon their arrival,” it said.
The statement goes on to add that one of three elements attempted to “violently force open the HC’s car door”, which will require suitable police consideration.
“It is due to the quick reaction of one of the organisers, who physically intervened at the car door, that a bigger incident was avoided. The High Commission of India has reported this disgraceful incident to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Metropolitan Police,” the statement added.
The FCDO Minister for Indo-Pacific took to social media soon after to express her concern over the incident.
“Concerned to see that the Indian High Commissioner, Vikram Doraiswami, was stopped from meeting with the Gurudwara Committee at the Gurudwara in Glasgow. The safety and security of foreign diplomats is of utmost importance, and our places of worship in the UK must be open to all,” Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a post on X.
The gurdwara committee and local community leaders have since expressed their regret over the incident and have called on the authorities to take action against the culprits.
The local police said it was called to the “disturbance”, and its enquiries remain ongoing.
“We were called around 1.05 pm on Friday, 29 September, to a report of a disturbance that happened in the Albert Drive area of Glasgow. There were no reports of any injuries, and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances,” said a Police Scotland spokesperson.
The incident follows a diplomatic standoff over the issue of pro-Khalistan extremism after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement in the country's Parliament last week that the authorities are “actively pursuing credible allegations" related to Indian government involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a designated terrorist, allegations which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has strongly rejected as “absurd and motivated”.
“This is exactly how we should be greeting any Indian ambassador, anyone from the Indian government who comes in an official capacity under any excuse of doing visa applications or whatever it might be,” a Sikh man is heard saying in a video posted on social media by a group called Sikh Youth UK following the incident in Glasgow.
The incident came towards the end of a two-day visit of the Indian High Commissioner to Scotland, which involved a series of meetings and discussions with local political leaders, diaspora representatives, business chiefs and university groups.
During his meeting with Scotland’s First Minister, Hamza Yousaf, the issue of British Sikh Jagtar Singh Johal in custody on terrorism charges in India was also raised.
“Replying to some issues raised by FM [First Minister Hamza] Yousaf, HC [High Commissioner] stressed that due process is being given under laws to Mr Johal, who faces 8 serious terror charges. FM also ‘appreciated’ HC’s clear message that rights of all communities are guaranteed in India’s pluralist and free democracy,” the Indian High Commission tweeted with reference to the meeting.
The Indian mission added that the discussions with Scottish leaders ranged from India-Scotland cooperation in sectors across fintech, sustainable agriculture, tourism and water conservation. A visit to the Scottish Parliament, a lecture entitled ‘India@75’ at the University of Edinburgh, an interaction at the University of Strathclyde and a breakfast meeting with leading business chiefs on topics ranging from whisky, aviation, energy, agriculture, green economy, space and investments were part of the packed two-day schedule to the region.