Deccan Chronicle

Barricades removed from British High Commission in Delhi

Deccan Chronicle with agency inputs | DC Correspondent

Published on: March 22, 2023 | Updated on: March 22, 2023
The UK High Commission after removal of security barricades by the Delhi Police, in New Delhi, Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)

The UK High Commission after removal of security barricades by the Delhi Police, in New Delhi, Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)

London: In the wake of India’s fury over the recent pulling down of the Indian flag at its high commission in London by pro-Khalistan elements there and India having accused Britain of indifference over the protection of Indian diplomatic missions, the barricades near the residence of British high commissioner Alex Ellis at the high-security Rajaji Marg here and the British high commission compound in Delhi’s Chanakyapuri diplomatic enclave were removed late on Tuesday night, triggering speculation of a strong signal of displeasure to London. There was no official comment from the Indian government. Asked about the issue, the British high commission said it does not comment on security matters.

News reports from London indicated a heightened security presence was put in place and barricades erected outside the Indian high commission in the British capital on Wednesday due to a planned demonstration by some pro-Khalistan groups. The Indian high commission in London has been working to counter disinformation over developments in Punjab, including the action taken against separatist group "Waris Punjab De".

In a video, Indian high commissioner Vikram Doraiswami was quoted by news agencies as saying: "Let me assure all our friends here in the UK, especially brothers and sisters with relatives in Punjab, that there is no truth to the sensationalist lies being circulated on the social media. The situation in your ancestral homeland is not what is being reported. The elected chief minister of the state and the local police authorities have put out detailed information, including interviews on television, please watch these. Do not believe the small handful of people putting out fiction and disinformation."

In an update on the enforcement action since March 18, Mr Doraiswami said the Punjab Police launched an operation against elements of "Waris Punjab De" and criminal cases were recorded, in particular, against Amritpal Singh, the organisation’s chief. The Indian envoy added that the constitutional rights to legal defence for all those arrested will be protected and reiterated all communication services, including mobile telephone networks and the Internet, were up and running in the state.

In New Delhi, a senior police officer was quoted as telling news agencies: "The security arrangements outside the British high commission here are intact. However, barricades on the pathway towards the commission that created hurdles for commutation have been removed."

India had Sunday night summoned Britain’s deputy high commissioner and conveyed a strong protest after pro-Khalistan elements pulled down the Indian flag at the high commission in London on Sunday. An explanation had been demanded by India from Britain for the complete absence of British security, with New Delhi finding "unacceptable" the "indifference" of the British government "to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in the UK". India had demanded "immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each one of those involved in today’s incident" and said some of these elements had managed to enter the high commission premises.

The removal of the mobile barricades at the British high commission and the high commissioner’s residence in different parts of Delhi brought back memories of a decade-old incident in 2013 when concrete barricades were removed near the US embassy here after Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested in the United States over charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid. The issue had escalated into a full-blown diplomatic spat between the US and India in the last few months of the Congress-led UPA-2 government.

In London, according to news agency reports, banners for a so-called "national protest", organised by groups such as the Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) and Sikh Youth Jathebandia, have been circulating on the social media. Since the weekend, several uniformed officers have been patrolling the area in Aldwych, and Metropolitan Police vans have been stationed at India Place.

British Sikh MPs -- Labour's Tanmanjeet Singh and Preet Kaur Gill – are among those who expressed concern for their UK constituents with relatives in Punjab. "Monitoring developments surrounding Punjab. So many of my constituents are concerned for their loved ones given an Internet blackout. Ministers should engage with the Indian authorities so UK families who can't reach their relatives regain contact as soon as possible," Ms Gill tweeted on Sunday. On being alerted about the violent protest at the high commission, she added: "No one should resort to such attacks. This is unacceptable."

Several Indian pro-India diaspora groups gathered for a "We Stand By High Commission of India" festive demonstration outside India House in London on Tuesday as a show of solidarity. On the recent violence at the Indian high commission by pro-Khalistan elements, the Metropolitan Police said its "enquiries continue" and one male arrested on suspicion of violent disorder has since been released on bail, and will appear in court in mid-June.

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