Members of the Sikh community in Bhopal and Indore took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the acts of vandalism by pro-Khalistan sympathisers outside India’s diplomatic premises in London and San Francisco.
“We strongly condemn the incident outside the London High Commission. These anti-social elements disrespecting the tricolour are not part of the Sikh community,” said religious leader Gyani Dileep Singh during the protest at Roshanpura Square in Bhopal.
Madhya Pradesh BJP spokesperson and Sikh activist Neha Bagga said it was regrettable that a few Sikhs working at the behest of anti-India forces were defaming the entire community.
“This is the time for the Sikh community to come forward openly against such anti-social elements sitting in foreign countries,” Bagga said.
In Indore, Sikhs gathered at the city’s Regal square holding the tricolour and placards carrying patriotic messages, raised the slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, and said they would not tolerate insult to the national flag.
“Many people from the Sikh community have sacrificed their lives for India’s freedom. Today some foreign forces are conspiring against the unity and integrity of India. We will not allow the designs of these forces to succeed,” a protestor said.
State BJP spokesperson Narendra Saluja, who was among the protesters, said, “Some anti-social elements funded by Pakistan are trying to defame the Sikh community through the incidents in London and San Francisco. We oppose such elements.”
The national flag is a symbol of respect and self-respect for the Sikh community, he said.
Meanwhile, the United States has strongly condemned the attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco by a group of separatist Sikhs, terming it absolutely unacceptable.
Raising pro-Khalistan slogans, the protesters on Sunday, March 19, broke open the makeshift security barriers raised by the city police and installed two so-called Khalistani flags inside the Consulate premises. Two consulate personnel soon removed these flags.
Soon thereafter, a group of angry protesters entered the consulate premises and started hitting the door and windows with the iron rods.
“That vandalism, it’s just absolutely unacceptable,” John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for strategic communications at the White House told reporters at a daily news conference, strongly condemning the incident.
“The State Department’s diplomatic security service is working with local authorities. I can’t speak for the San Francisco police, but I can say that the diplomatic security service is working with local authorities to properly investigate and obviously, the State Department is going to be working from an infrastructure perspective to repair the damage, but it’s unacceptable,” Kirby said in response to a question.
The State Department also issued a statement indicating that those behind the act would be held accountable. “The US condemns the attack on Sunday against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. Violence against diplomatic facilities within the US is a punishable crime,” it said.
“It is our priority to defend the security and safety of these facilities and the diplomats who work within them,” said the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department.
In a separate statement, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum strongly condemned the attack on the Indian mission in San Francisco, California. “The United States and India are vibrant democracies and understand that the right to assemble peacefully and protest is sacrosanct. However, violence and vandalism will not be condoned or tolerated,” it said.
Diplomats and consular staff deserve the same right to a secure and peaceful work environment, free from external harm and threats, it said. “We stand by Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad, the honorable Consul General of India in San Francisco, and his staff.”
The USISPF urged the local authorities in California and the Congressional leadership of the district to take necessary action against the culprits and those guilty of aiding and abetting. “We thank the State Department for responding promptly.”
In a related development, sources in India’s diplomatic establishment said India summoned the senior-most British diplomat in Delhi following the vandalism at the Indian high commission in London. High commissioner to India Alex Ellis reportedly condemned “the disgraceful acts today against the people and premises of the Indian High commission” and called it “totally unacceptable”.