Friday 25 October 2019 4:36 AM UTC
London Oct 25: A march planned by pro-Pakistani separatist groups on Kashmir to coincide with Diwali on Sunday has been denied permission by the UK authorities to assemble outside the Indian High Commission here.
A day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons that any kind of violence during such demonstrations was “wholly unacceptable”, it emerged on Thursday that the groups behind the protest will have to steer clear of the Indian mission area of Aldwych in central London.
“They will not be allowed to assemble outside the High Commission,” a mission spokesperson confirmed.
The route of the march will now reportedly end up at Trafalgar Square instead, a requirement imposed due to concerns of violence in the wake of clashes at a previous demonstration by similar groups on August 15.
The Metropolitan Police is yet to confirm the details of the restrictions, but it followed various interventions over the last few days, including a diplomatic “note verbale” from the Indian High Commission expressing safety concerns.
On Wednesday, Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman had raised his fears of violence during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in Parliament. He urged the Prime Minister to take action as he told the House about violent protests by similar pro-Pakistani groups at the London mission during Indian Independence Day celebrations on August 15.
This is a police operational matter and the home secretary [Priti Patel] will be raising it with the police, Johnson responded.
We must all be clear in this House that violence and intimidation anywhere is wholly unacceptable in this country, he said.
The north London MP, who is also chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Hindus, stressed that while he defended the right of peaceful protest, violent protests must be banned.
This Sunday, there is the threat of 10,000 people being brought to demonstrate outside the Indian High Commission on Diwali, the most holy day for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. What action is the government going to take to prevent violent protests this Sunday, he questioned.
Last week, the London Mayor had issued a statement condemning the march and called on the groups to reconsider, while highlighting that the power to ban marches of this nature lies solely with the UK Home Secretary and not with the mayoral office.
According to the Met Police details on the permissions sought for the proposed march, an estimated 5,000-10,000 protesters had planned to commence their march from Richmond Terrace near Downing Street and converge outside the Indian High Commission in London. They would now reportedly have to re-route based on the Met Police directions.
The so-called “Free Kashmir” rally is being promoted across social media channels as an annual “Black Day” event to mark October 27, 1947, as the day when Indian troops allegedly entered the then princely kingdom of Kashmir.
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