Thirteen people were arrested at a large kisaan car rally held in London on Sunday at which thousands of Indian-origin people, mainly British Sikhs, descended upon the India High Commission to show solidarity with the farmers who are agitating in India.
Around 35 cars took part in a separate smaller Kisaan car rally, which was held at the same time in the same place opposite India House, organised by Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) UK.
At the main rally, organised by the Federation of Sikh Organisations, hundreds drove round Aldwych in a convoy of cars and trucks waving flags and honking cars whilst thousands more turned up on foot to chant slogans.
The Metropolitan Police said that13 arrests at that were all made for breaching Covid regulations but that four people were de-arrested after they provided police with their contact details and issued with a fine. The other nine remained in custody on Sunday night.
Three teenagers who were seen to set off a firework towards a crowd were spoken to by police and their fireworks were confiscated.
Vishwesh Negi, Minister for Political, Press & Information, at the High Commission of India, said the High Commission had been given notification that permission had been sought from the Metropolitan Police for a drive past protest involving about 40 vehicles.
“In the end about 700 vehicles participated in the rally,” he said. “The protesters gathered in large numbers around 3,500 to 4,000 in front of the High Commission flouting social distancing norms during a pandemic,” he said. “The police had given specific warning against a gathering of more than 30 people. The police eventually disposed the crowds. We could see that a few violent ones were arrested. As expected, it soon became clear that the gathering was led by anti -India separatists who had taken the opportunity of the farm protests in India to ostensibly back the farmers in India but use the opportunity to pursue their own anti-India agenda.” He added the High Commission would be coordinating with the UK authorities to find out how such a gathering of thousands could take place without specific permission.
Commander Paul Brogden said: “I would like to thank the officers who policed this protest under very challenging circumstances, and Londoners for their patience following the disruption to traffic caused by the numbers in attendance. We had issued a reminder urging those who were planning to attend to reconsider but, unfortunately, a number of people decided not to follow that advice. A proportionate policing plan was in place.
“I would like to remind everyone that the capital remains in the midst of a pandemic; it is vital that we all play our part in the fight against Covid-19.
“If you attend a gathering that breaches the regulations, you may be committing an offence.”
The IOC UK supporters drove from Hounslow to Aldwych and then got out of their vehicles and stood opposite India House, barely differentiated from the main rally, holding placards saying ‘We support our farmers. We are farmers not terrorists. No farmers no food.’
Gurminder Randhawa, senior vice president of IOC UK said: “We wanted to show solidarity to farmers in India so we held our own protest. This was separate to the big protest. We want whatever the farmers want.”
“The protest against agri reform bills in India is part of a democratic process. The Government of India is in talks with the protesters which are still ongoing. It is an internal issue of India,” Negi said. “In recent days, the High Commission has comprehensively briefed the relevant interlocutors in the UK Government on the fundamental features of the path breaking farming sector reforms initiated by the Government of India. The fact that currently the Government of India has reached out to the farmer organisations in India to address any concerns is part of the democratic decision-making process and exemplifies the spirit of responsive governance in India,” he added.