At several points, the Indian flag was torn by hand and shredded underfoot, and protesters on both sides shouting slogans and insults at each other.
The anti-India “Black Day” protest was organised by Lord Nazir Ahmed, a non-affiliated Member of the House of Lords, a day after he launched a new campaign, which includes five vans with billboards championing separatist movements including “Free Kashmir” and “Free Khalistan” “Free Assam” “Free Nagaland” and “Free Manipur” and will drive across central London..
In the early afternoon, the vans gathered outside the High Commission, with the two camps — the anti- India camp including Free Kashmir and Free Khalistan activists among others — and the counter-protesters initially separated by police gathering opposite each other leading to heated exchanges. “Khalistan Azaadi,” and “RSS terrorists,” were some of the slogans of the anti-India protesters while the others shouted Vande Mataram and Modi! Modi!
At the protest, Lord Ahmed told this paper that the vans would travel to other areas with a large Indian diaspora, including Birmingham, and Manchester, and would continue until Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Britain in April.
“We want to tell people that this so-called democracy that they are celebrating is actually an expansion of Hindutva,” he said, drawing a parallel between the treatment of minorities in India and under Hitler.
Ahead of the launch of Lord Ahmed’s campaign, sources in London said that India had expressed its concerns through a note verbale to the British Foreign Office, around the use of government and public property by anti-India groups and had been given assurances that forums such as London taxis or buses or billboards on public property could not be used to promote such messages.
However, the use of private billboard vans is not something that has been taken up.
India has regularly used its channels here to express concerns about anti-India activity, particularly that perceived to incite violence or hatred.
Earlier this year, Birmingham Council withdrew permission for a rally due to take place on the death anniversary of Burhan Wani, after India raised its concerns about the event and the eulogisation of the militant.