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TimesofIndia International

Violent protests outside Indian mission in London, PIOs hurt

LONDON: Violent protests took place outside the India high commission in London on Thursday when protesters carrying Khalistani and Kashmiri flags tried to push forward across police lines and threw objects in the air above mounted police horses, targeting members of the Indian diaspora who were peacefully celebrating Independence Day.
Hundreds of thugs and hooligans were among the protesters at the so-called anti-India protest deliberately held to coincide with Independence Day. They held anti-India placards and shouted abuse. The protesters arrived in coaches from cities and towns such as Birmingham and Nottingham at 12pm local time.
Families from the Indian diaspora had gathered for an afternoon of cultural performances outside the high commission in India Place at the same time. But crowds of protesters made up predominantly of British Pakistanis, Pakistani Kashmiris and pro-Khalistan Sikhs gathered in the road close by and shouted abuse at them across a thin line of control set up by police on horses.
The protesters threw eggs, glass bottles, shoes, plastic bottles of water, lighters, bananas, batteries, potatoes, hot coffee, their own placards and apples over the heads of the horses at the Indian diaspora who were holding Indian flags and celebrating Independence Day. Many PIOs were hit by the flying objects and some were injured. One man who was holding an Indian flag was left covered with eggs. There were scores of eggs, vegetables and bottles all over the ground.
The violent protesters on Aldwych were being held back by horses from entering India Place, where the Indian diaspora were celebrating. They had ignored barriers set up for them and taken over the road and, before long, had let off smoke bombs to upset and confuse the police horses.
Then, after a couple of hours, a group of protesters appeared from the other side of India Place which had not been closed off by police. The Indian families, many of whom had children, were then sandwiched in and trapped as obstacles were thrown at them from all sides.
This reporter narrowly escaped being hit with a glass bottle.
Families with small children were trapped for hours between the violent protesters and the cultural programme was called off. Finally, at 3.30 pm, time hundreds of riot police were called, who, whilst battling items being thrown at them, pushed the protesters back. Hundreds of Indians then took refuge inside the high commission building until the police were able to clear a safe route.
The Metropolitan police said four people were arrested under Section 4 of the Public Order Act, for affray, obstruction of police and possession of an offensive weapon.
Jay shah, a member of Friends of India Society International, said: “It is very sad that law and order has failed in London. When Trump said it was failing, he was right. I blame London mayor Sadiq Khan for this absolute failure. They knew how many protesters were coming. They should have banned some of them. We have seen nothing but violence, intimidation and abuse.”
Chandrabali Nandy, from London, was trapped in India Place with her six-year-old and four-year-old sons who she had brought for the celebrations, for hours. “We want to leave and we can’t get out” she told TOI at 3pm. “It’s terrible. How can I explain to my kids what is happening? We had come here to peacefully celebrate Independence Day.”
Parin Shah, 32, said: “Why were there not more police? There were a few hundred of us and thousands of them had come in coachloads. The police let them go across barriers and get far too close.”
A young PIO Kashmiri girl called Ash, 14, who lives in Leicester, said: “I came here to celebrate. I have been hit with eggs twice. They have been violent and we have been peaceful. The police have allowed them to get too close. I don’t feel safe at all.” “I am in favour of revocation of Article 370 as it means women, LGBT and Dalits will have equal rights,” her mother said.
Pravin Patel, 73, had his forehead cut when he was hit by a bottle of mineral water. “At first one of them grabbed my placard which said ‘We welcome Modi as PM’. Then later they threw a bottle straight at me. No one got arrested for that. This kind of violence is unacceptable in the UK.” “We have seen total inaction by the police,” Harish Patel said.

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