By Vinod Tikoo
October 22nd 2019
During ‘11 Days of Christmas’ in 1972, American B52 fighter jets relentlessly dropped 1500 tonnes of bombs over Vietnam, killing hundreds of innocent people, which then ultimately led to the American withdrawal from Vietnam and this is often remembered as the Bloodiest Christmas in modern history.
Come 27th October 2019, Indians around the world get ready to celebrate their most important religious and cultural festival of lights, Diwali. For Hindu’s & other Indian communities, Diwali is the literal equivalent of the Christmas festival in terms of its reverence and popularity.
We now know that a huge contingent of British Pakistanis supported by some Labour politicians plan to converge on the Indian High Commission in London to protest and express their resentment for the constitutional changes carried out by India earlier in the summer on Article 370 for Jammu & Kashmir. The touted numbers of protestors who are to be gathered and ferried in buses and lorries from various meeting points in Mosques around the country is estimated to be in excess of 15K to 20K.
This same group of organisations led by some very divisive Labour politicians, many of whom are of Pakistani origin, have already twice protested outside Indian High Commission this summer, once during India’s Independence Day celebrations on 15th August and then again on 3rd September. On both occasions the protests have been extremely violent and led to extensive damage to the High Commission building in London (damages estimated in excess of £150K) and injuries to various people including women, elderly and children.
On both of these occasions the British Indian community representatives and the Indian High commission reported the incidents to Met Police and Mayor’s office. Extensive consultations were subsequently held on this matter but so far no tangible action has been taken to punish the organisations and the politicians who instigated this violence.
What was further highlighted during these consultations was the complete inability of the Metropolitan Police to be able to manage huge crowds when they turn violent due to the limitations in the available resources for riot-management.
There are grave concerns that on 27th October 2019 (Diwali day) yet again the minority British Indian community & Indian High Commission will be the target again and will have to bear the brunt of the violent and unruly protestors. Even to plan basic and simple ceremonies like Lighting of the Diyas around the High Commission on the most auspicious day of the Indian religious calendar is now seeming improbable amid the planned protests.
These protests are promoted on paper as “peaceful” but as we have seen on both previous occasions, have rapidly turned extremely ugly and violent. The protestors have carried and used smoke bombs, frozen water bottles, potatoes, eggs and even carried knives to these protests. This would normally not be the case during a peaceful protest unless such activities are pre-meditated and pre-planned.
The current situation and unwillingness to stop these protests from happening on the Diwali day seem to highlight the lack of willingness of the British administration to take any proactive measures to protect the rights of the minority British Indian community to celebrate their festivals and other cultural events without fear of intimidation, violence or provocation.
This also highlights the extremely vicious agenda of some vested interests who are instigating a specific community against the other in the UK and some politicians specifically from the UK Labour party are providing support and credence to this divisive agenda. This does not bode well for the future of Multi-cultural UK. Some fundamental questions need to be addressed by the government and administration of the day and the diverse communities and their representatives in the UK, including the ones who want to conduct this protest on Diwali day:
We need answers and we need them now. It is less than a week to Diwali and the clock is ticking down.
Vinod Tikoo is a Digital IT leader and a community activist based in London. A British Indian and a Kashmiri Hindu, born and brought up in Kashmir, Vinod represents the Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre, UK. The Centre is an advocacy and think tank on J&K. Vinod is also associated with the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society, UK; a leading voice of Kashmiri Pandits in the UK.
Follow Vinod on Twitter: @vinodtikoo/@jkscuk