LONDON: India’s High Commission in London said on Saturday it has reported a “disgraceful incident” involving a top diplomat being confronted by protesters at a Sikh temple in Glasgow to police and Britain’s Foreign Office.
The incident comes as India’s relations with Sikh communities overseas are under the spotlight due to New Delhi’s arrest and alleged torture of a Sikh blogger from Scotland, and alleged involvement in the murder of a Sikh leader in Canada.
India’s diplomatic mission in London said that Vikram Doraiswami, its High Commissioner to the UK, had been invited to the Sikh temple, or gurdwara, in Scotland’s biggest city on Friday to discuss community and consular issues.
But it said he was confronted on arrival by three people described as “non-local extremist elements” who tried to “violently force open” the vehicle he was travelling in.
Scottish Sikh group says ‘misinformation’ being spread regarding ‘peaceful & legal protest’ against Indian diplomat’s visit
The diplomat left the scene without going ahead with the visit, the high commission claimed.
The allegation prompted junior UK foreign minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan to say she was “concerned”.
“The safety and security of foreign diplomats is of utmost importance and our places of worship in the UK must be open to all,” she said on X, formerly Twitter.
However, a Scottish Sikh group said on social media that “misinformation & fake news has been spread regarding a peaceful & legal protest objecting to @VDoraiswami holding an official visit at #GlasgowGurdwara”.
The Sikhs in Scotland national advocacy charity added that the diplomat had “remained safely in his car at all times” and that “he chose to drive away from the Gurdwara and did not stay to answer Sikh community’s legitimate concerns”.
Scotland Police confirmed it had been alerted to reports of a disturbance at the gurdwara at lunchtime on Friday, according to UK media.
“There were no reports of any injuries and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances,” a spokesperson said in a reported statement.
The UK is home to some 500,000 Sikhs, including a sizeable community in Scotland. They have campaigned in recent years over the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, a Sikh blogger from Scotland.
Jagtar Singh has been held in detention in India for five years, accused of being part of a terror plot against right-wing Hindu leaders and has been charged with a murder conspiracy.
Relations between India and Canada have already plunged since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently disclosed that there was evidence of Indian intelligence agency’s link to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who advocated a separate Sikh state carved out of India, in June.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar a few days ago claimed that there was a “climate of violence” and an “atmosphere of intimidation” against Indian diplomats in Canada, where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi. Canada is home to about 770,000 Sikhs, the highest population outside the northern Indian state of Punjab.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023