Despite strong objection raised by India, the US-based separatist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is going ahead with its pro-Khalistan rally ‘London Declaration for a Referendum 2020’ scheduled to held at London’d iconic Trafalgar Square between 3 pm and 6 pm today.
On the other hand, to counter it, a rally to mark India’s Independence Day named ‘We Stand With India’ will held at the same place today between 1 pm and 4 pm.
Thousands are expected to descend upon the iconic Trafalgar Square from both sides after the UK said it would not ban any group protesting peacefully.
A UK government spokesperson had said that “in the UK people have the right to gather together and to demonstrate their views, provided that they do so within the law”.
India has strongly and publicly stated reservations about SJF’s pro-Khalistan rally, which it views as an impingement on its “territorial integrity”.
Last month, India had issued a demarche to the UK expressing strong reservations over SFJ’s scheduled rally, saying that the outfit was acting as a front for terror activities.
SFJ, a human rights advocacy group with radical leaning, plans to hold what it calls a “London Declaration” on an independence referendum for the Indian state of Punjab at Trafalgar Square in London today.
According to the Referendum website, “Punjab Referendum 2020 is a campaign to liberate Punjab, currently occupied by India. The campaign aims to gage the will of the Punjabi people with regards to reestablishing Punjab as a nation state.” They further claim that once they establish consensus on the question of independence, the group will go to the UN “for reestablishing the country of Punjab”. This issue has emerged as a point of friction between India and UK.
The ministry of external affairs (MEA) in New Delhi had issued a statement on Thursday, expressing its disappointment at the rally organized by Sikhs for Justice.
“We have said that it seeks to propagate violence, secessionism and hatred and we expect them to take into account the larger perspective of the relationship when they take a decision on such matters,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Chairman of the British Sikh Association Dr Rami Ranger dismissed the pro-Khalistan rally as a move by a “handful of un-elected and self appointed Sikhs”.
“If they have any merit in their argument, then they should go to Punjab and fight election on the agenda of Khalistan. There is no point embarrassing Sikhs at large along with their Gurus by behaving in an undemocratically manner in a foreign country with a demand of a referendum which is not binding on any one,” he said.
Meanwhile, the SFJ said its rally is intended to raise awareness for a non-binding referendum in 2020, calling for the Sikh-majority state of Punjab to be granted independence.
Besides the UK’s left-wing Green Party, no major British political party or leader has come forward to back the rally.
Scotland Yard said it had not received any complaints regarding the event which will be allowed to go ahead without any restrictions.
(With inputs from agencies)