LONDON: In a display of solidarity for the vote in Brisbane, Australia for a separate Sikh homeland, more than two dozen activists converged outside the Indian High Commission in central London and replaced the nation’s flag with the Khalistan flag, while chanting Sikh religious slogans and calling for the creation of a sovereign Sikh state.
Footage of the incident showed a turbaned man scaling the front of the building and reaching the top balcony, where the tricolour Indian flag was hoisted. Within seconds, he removes the Indian national flag and replaces it with the yellow Khalistan banner, without any hindrance from any security personnel.
Meanwhile, the supporters on the ground remove the Indian flag completely, as the Khalistan flag is raised.
Two members of the staff appeared on the balcony from inside, and a standoff between them and the Sikh man ensued for several minutes before the man eventually came off the balcony.
Indian flag is being pulled down from the Indian High Commission in London by Khalistan supporters. A regime that calls itself nationalist can’t even protect country’s flag in its diplomatic premises. pic.twitter.com/VA8gkzwR9b
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) March 19, 2023
The London police said two security guards were injured and an investigation has been launched, according to BBC.
The incident marked the first time that the Indian flag has been taken off the diplomatic building. Citing the PA news agency, BBC reported crowd members were believed to be supporters of the Khalistan movement.
Responding to the incident, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said he condemned “the violent disorder and vandalism that took place”.
“There is no place in our city for this kind of behaviour”, he said in a tweet.
I condemn the violent disorder and vandalism that took place at the Indian High Commission today. There is no place in our city for this kind of behaviour.
An investigation has been launched by the Met into today’s events.
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) March 19, 2023
The British high commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, described the incident as “disgraceful” and “totally unacceptable”.
I condemn the disgraceful acts today against the people and premises of the @HCI_London – totally unacceptable.
— Alex Ellis (@AlexWEllis) March 19, 2023
Responding to the event, New Delhi demanded that London take “immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each one of those involved in today’s incident, and put in place stringent measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents,” The Wire reported.
Tensions between the extremist government of Narendra Modi and Sikhs worldwide have been growing over complaints of worsening human rights violations of Sikhs in India.
Back home, law enforcement agencies in the northern Indian state of Punjab are conducting a “manhunt” for Amritpal Singh, a prominent self-styled Sikh preacher who says he supports the movement, and have suspended mobile and internet services across the region.
With over 11,000 Sikhs participating in the second phase of the Khalistan Referendum, the latest incident highlights the struggle for Khalistan’s creation and the support it has garnered among the Sikh community.