London: Britain's left-wing Green Party on Tuesday threw its support behind the pro-Khalistan rally planned at Trafalgar Square in London on Sunday, an event opposed by India. The co-leader of the political party, which campaigns for environmentally friendly policies, spoke out in favour of the so-called "London Declaration" for a "Referendum 2020” campaign seeking a "sovereign state of Khalistan", being organised by US-based group Sikhs for Justice.
"Sikh people have a right to determine for themselves whether they want to establish an independent Punjabi state,” said Caroline Lucas, the party's only elected MP in the House of Commons.
"I stand in solidarity with all those joining the London Declaration, and those fighting discrimination and campaigning for a referendum around the world," she said.
The first open support from a British MP for the controversial rally came as the UK government reiterated its stance on the issue had remained unchanged. A UK government spokesperson had said in a statement last month: “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 registered its formal opposition to the event through a demarche when news of the rally emerged in July, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) saying it expected the UK government would not allow any such group whose intention was to “spread hatred and impact our bilateral relations” to use UK soil for such a rally.
Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) says the 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. "It is the success of the British Sikh community, which sent more than 47,000 emails to their MPs urging them to support London Declaration and oppose India's interference,” said Paramjeet Singh Pamma, one of the organisers and UK-based Khalistani activist wanted in India over his alleged involvement in bombings in Punjab in 2010 – charges he denies.
Scotland Yard said it had not received any complaints regarding the event on Sunday, which will be allowed to go ahead without any restrictions. “There are no restrictions on the event and we have not received any complaints. An appropriate and proportionate policing plan is in place,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said.
Opposition Labour party MP Preet Kaur Gill, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs as the first female Sikh MP in the House of Commons, said she supported the group's right to protest “safely and in peace” with all relevant permissions.
She struck a note of caution that “non-binding referendum have a very little impact on governments” and called on the organisers to give due regard to the possible implications of those taking part in any such potential referendum, as the issue has “seen some young people imprisoned in India for promoting the idea”.
Updated Date: Aug 07, 2018 08:29:25 IST