India on Sunday night lodged a strong protest with the United Kingdom after Khalistan supporters took down the Tricolour from the Indian high commission in London.
The immediate provocation for the protesters in London appears to have been the police action in Punjab to apprehend self-styled Khalistani separatist Amritpal Singh. Some of the protesters held aloft his posters.
Soon after videos emerged of Khalistan supporters pulling the flag down, the external affairs ministry summoned a senior UK diplomat in New Delhi.
Alex Ellis, the British high commissioner to India, tweeted: “I condemn the disgraceful acts today against the people and premises of the @HCI_ London — totally unacceptable.” The Indian external affairs ministry said in a statement: “An explanation was demanded for the complete absence of British security that allowed these elements to enter the high commission premises. She was reminded in this regard of the basic obligations of the UK government under the Vienna Convention. “India finds unacceptable the indifference of the UK government to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in the UK.”
The ministry said it expected the UK government to take immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each of those involved in Sunday’s incident, and put in place stringent measures to prevent repeats. The videos showed protesters shouting “Khalistan zindabad”, and a person scrambling onto the balcony of India House in Aldwych to remove the Tricolour.
Last week, Khalistan supporters had forced the closure of the office of the honorary consulate of India in Brisbane, Australia, for a short while. The move came less than a week after Australian Premier Anthony Albanese had assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his India visit that action would be taken against such elements. A “Khalistan referendum” was held in Brisbane on Sunday. PTI adds: Across Punjab on Sunday, police conducted flag marches and searches in their hunt for Amritpal and arrested another 34 of his supporters.
Punjab and Harya - na High Court asked the state government to respond on Tuesday to a habeas corpus petition that claimed the preacher was already in illegal police custody and should be released. Justice N.S. Shekhawat held the hearing at his home-office as the courts were closed. The police stuck to their version that the Waris Punjab De chief had given them the slip during a car chase in Jalandhar district on Saturday when the crackdown against the group began. They have slapped fresh FIRs against the Khalistan sympathiser and his supporters. Section 144 of the CrPC, which prohibits congregations, was imposed in the Union territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana. Prohibitory orders were already in force in some parts of Punjab.
Police recovered a second vehicle in the case, an abandoned pick-up with a gun, a sword and several cartridges in Jalandhar district’s Salema village, and said it appeared to have been a part of Amritpal’s cavalcade. The crackdown has come weeks after Amritpal and his supporters barged into the Ajnala police station near Amritsar, extracting an assurance that an arrested man would be released.
On Sunday, security forces held flag marches at several places including Ferozepur, Bathinda, Rupnagar, Faridkot, Batala, Fazilka, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Moga and Jalandhar in a show of strength. Punjab has extended the suspension of mobile Internet and SMS services till Monday noon.