Britain’s Green Party has come out in support of a controversial pro-Khalistan rally due to take place in London at the weekend, in support of a referendum for an independent Sikh homeland.
Caroline Lucas, Member of Parliament and co-leader of the Green Party, said in a statement that she stood in “solidarity” with those joining the event on Sunday – dubbed the “London Declaration” – and for those “fighting discrimination and campaigning for a referendum around the world… Sikh people have a right to determine for themselves whether they want to establish an independent Punjabi state.”
The rally, due to take place in the afternoon of August 12, in central London, has heightened tensions between India and the U.K., after Britain said it wouldn’t ban the demonstration, despite concerns raised by India, and the issuance of a demarche to take action.
Last month the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said they expected the U.K. government not to allow a group “whose intention is to spread hatred and impact our bilateral relations,” to use the country. He emphasised “good relations” with the Sikh community more widely, but expressed concerns around “fringe elements” who sought to spread “hatred and communal disharmony”.
The British government has said that people had the right to gather together and demonstrate their views, provided they did so within the law. It wouldn’t “tolerate anyone who spread hate or deliberately raised community fears and tensions by bringing disorder and violence to our towns and cities and the police have comprehensive powers to deal with such activities”.
The rally in London is being organised by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which said it hoped to use the rally to raise awareness of its plans to hold a non-binding referendum in 2020. The group said that members of the British Sikh community had written to their MPs urging them to support the London Declaration and “oppose India’s interference.”
Ms. Lucas is the first British MP to publicly voice support for the campaign and rally.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said they were aware of the planned event on Sunday afternoon and had been liaising with the SFJ. “There are no restrictions on the event and we have not received any complaints. An appropriate and proportionate policing plan is in place.”
Over the past few weeks, the SFJ have been using social media to highlight groups they said would be coming from other parts of Britain and Europe to take part in the rally. “Pick Your Side” tweeted Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to the SFJ campaign with images of the Khalistan flag, and the Indian flag and the dates of August 12 and 15 beside each other. Other groups have also supported the rally. Following an article on the protest in The Times of London, the Sikh Federation U.K. accused Indian authorities of “overreacting” to the Sikh diaspora and described the “re-establishment of a Sikh homeland” as “inevitable”.
The rally comes several months after a separate controversy over the tearing of an Indian flag on Parliament square during a rally, attended by several groups including pro-Khalistan protesters. India raised concerns about the flag-tearing and received an apology from the British government over the incident.