London police ban protest outside India House on Oct 27

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Nation special report

LONDON:  All hopes and expectations of Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora in Britain for a big demonstration and protest outside the India House on Sunday, October 27 dashed on Wednesday (October 23) when the London police decided to impose a ban on this move.

Anti-India elements were busy in planning a huge protest to observe this day as ‘Black Day’ in context of Kashmir issue. President of AJK Sardar Masood Khan, Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had been in Britain this week especially to motivate their countrymen to make this demonstration a successful and unprecedented.

Abdul Rasheed Turabi, Altaf Butt, Ch. Mohammad Yasin and other Kashmiri leaders are presently in Britain and addressing public meetings in various cities to persuade their followers to participate in the demonstration. The revocation of Kashmir Articles 370 and 35-A has offended Pakistan and AJK leaders and people and the arrangements for this rally were in process for a long time.

According to informed sources, the Home Secretary Priti Patel, following receiving a number of letters and suggestions against this planned protest, held meetings with concerned police officials and discussed the issue in details.

It is learnt that it was officially decided that Under Section 14 Public Order Act 1986, the Westminster Police have restricted the protestors from taking the procession to outside Indian High Commission. Now according to the police decision, the protestors can march from 10-Downing Street to Trafalgar on agreed route and not beyond that point. They would strictly be not allowed to march towards Indian High Commission.

Police instructions

In an apparently clarification note, the police have issued instructions that “any static assembly that is held in London on the 27th October 2019 that is in support of the Muslim Action Forum, World Muslim Federation, Pakistan Patriotic Front, Overseas Pakistan Welfare Council, Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party, the PTI AJK or any other Pro Kashmiri Groups” must make sure that the protest will be located in Parliament Street and “following any Procession must be located in Trafalgar Square” and for that the police has provided route maps to the organisers.

The police have imposed conditions that the march must start from Parliament Street; must not commence before 1400Hrs; and the route of the procession must follow the following route: Parliament Street; Whitehall and Trafalgar Square.

The police have further instructed that “If you take part in any procession at this location, you must adhere to these conditions and failure to do so many lead to arrest and prosecution. The conditions may be subject to change by the senior officer present – if in doubt please consult a police officer.

It is pertinent to mention here that keeping in view of bitter experience of lawlessness on a number of occasions during the demonstrations outside the India House; it was being considered that to avoid any untoward situation, the permission for such protest should not be granted.

Keith Vaz MP

Labour Member of Parliament Keith Vaz in his letter dated 19th October and headed as ‘Protection of the Indian High Commission, London’, reminded Home Secretary Priti Patel about his earlier letter of 27th September 2019.  He said that he understands that a large protest is planned outside the Indian High Commission building on 27th October 2019. He believes this is planned to coincide with Diwali celebrations.

Keith Vaz said; “There have been previous incidents of large-scale protests outside the High Commission which have turned violent, as occurred on 15th August 2019. I described the outline of this in my letter. To hold a demonstration during such an important festival in the Hindu faith I believe is intended solely to inflame tensions and cause great offence”.

He went on to say; “I do not believe this protest while an expression of free speech, would be conducive to the public good. I therefore request that this demonstration is not allowed to proceed. However, if you choose to allow it to take place, I would be grateful for you to explain what measures your Office will take to work with the Police to ensure such violence does not take place against the staff members and visitors who will be present.

Keith Vaz, who fought the BCCI case successfully and got fame, has also written to the Mayor of London in this regard.

Mayor Sadiq Khan

Meanwhile, Mayor Sadiq Khan has already opposed this demonstration and said the pro-Kashmir ‘Stand with Kashmir’ march to protest sanctions imposed on the state of Jammu and Kashmir should be cancelled.

Sadiq Khan said that though he could not ban the march, he did not think it should go ahead.

In a letter to Mr Navin Shah, member of London Assembly, he said: “This march will only deepen divisions at a time when Londoners need to come together. “That is why I am calling on those organising the march and all those considering taking part in it to think again and cancel their plans.

“The right to protest is an important and valued part of our democracy, but it must always be done peacefully and within the law,” Pakistan origin London Mayor who made the history by being elected to this important portfolio, stated.

London Assembly member Navin Shah, the Labour representative for Brent and Harrow, wrote to the Mayor last week to voice his concerns about the rally. Mr Shah said the previous march caused “chaos and mayhem” and called for the protest to be stopped.

Choudhry Tariq  Mahmood

Choudhry Tariq Mahmood, Chairman, Pakistan Patriotic Front, UK, told ‘The Nation’ that this decision is absolutely against the freedom of expression and no one can imagine this sort of injustice in a country which is called mother of democracy.

Tariq Mahmood said that the March which was planned to highlight the continuous suffering of the Kashmiri citizens at the hands of the Indian Army, was meant to start at 10 Downing Street and finish outside the Indian High Commission.

“The Police Commissioner has gone against our rights of freedom to expression or protest and therefore altered where the march can end. The Police have confirmed we cannot protest outside the Indian High Commission, which is a complete violation and in complete contrast to the rights of the Kashmiri people and the right to self determination as well as undermining British Citizens”.

Lord Nazir Ahmed

Lord Nazir Ahmed condemned the police decision and said this is the first time that we have been barred from using our legal right. “I damn care the ban and would march to India House, no one can stop me as would be alone and will be walking as independent citizen. I shall speak at the door of Indian High Commission and shall see who stop me.”

Legal experts

Meanwhile, legal experts opined that under the prevailing laws, police can impose Section 14 and it is an operational matter which can be applied at any time and any circumstances. The demonstration has been banned under this section.

Petition

Meanwhile, a petition on behalf of Choudhry Tariq Mahmood, Chairman, Pakistan Patriotic Front was e.mailed to Dame Cresside Dic, Commissioner Police on Thursday asking to reverse her decision.

Solicitor Mahtab Aziz mentioned in the petition that the Pakistan Patriotic Front who along with other Groups have obtained permission to conduct a rally and procession in support of the people of Kashmir and the current oppressive conditions imposed upon them by the Indian Government on the above date.  “We have been informed that your Department has imposed conditions under the Public Order Act 1986 in that you have prohibited the march from proceeding to the Indian Embassy located at Aldwych in Central London WC2B 4NA and have instead re-routed the march away from the vicinity”.

“On behalf of our clients we seek that you review this decision and have an emergency meeting with us and the organisers of the march so that we may allay any fears that your Metropolitan Police Constabulary may have over potential disruption, violence or criminal damage. We suspect that there will be many people who will feel let down by your decision and regard it as incorrect and therefore the potential for civil disobedience is greater if this scenario were to continue as there may be other groups who will carry out rallies regardless of the main groups known to you”.

The petition further goes on that we would like to have an urgent meeting prior to the 27th October with your our your colleagues to discuss security and conditions may be put forward to  you in order to allow this rally and procession to proceed in the route that it seeks to follow which must include the Indian Embassy.