An umbrella group representing over 100 British Indian organisations on Sunday condemned the ‘Free Kashmir’ demonstration by pro-Pakistani groups, as an act of Hinduphobia and racism.
Pro-Pakistani groups on Sunday held anti-India protests over Kashmir in London coinciding it with Diwali celebrations. Following widespread concerns raised across the board, including in the House of Commons, Scotland Yard had imposed strict restrictions on the route of the march to deny permission for it to culminate before the Indian High Commission in London.
In response to the campaign of the protestors, a group of British Indians sent out a van with a Diwali message on a mobile LED billboard through the streets of London.
The campaign under the name of Diwali 'Lights And Unites' in their message to the press said, "We are a group of concerned British Indians who wish to spread the inclusive and universal message of Diwali which embodies cohesion, peace, and love among communities. This is particularly relevant today as many Pro-Pakistan groups will be using this day of peace, cohesion, and love to divide the British Asian community into religious lines by carrying out a protest on Diwali day.”
A collective statement issued by the groups noted that the protest occurring “on the same day as Diwali is an act of Hinduphobia and racism".
"It is equivalent to an antisemitic group demonstrating on the holy day of Hannukkah or an anti-Muslim group demonstrating on Eid. This is why many British Indian individuals and community groups are upset," the statement said, welcoming London Mayor Sadiq Khan's call for the protesters to cancel their plans.
During the protests, British broadcaster and journalist Katie Hopkins was reportedly heckled by pro-Pakistani groups despite the strict precautions the Metropolitan Police had taken.
"We understand that this is a significant anniversary date for those protesting, and also recognise this falls on the important Hindu festival of Diwali. My intention on the day will be to balance the rights of those protesting with those who may be affected by it. We will take all necessary steps to prevent crime and disorder," said Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, the Gold Commander in charge of the policing operation.
The Indian High Commission in London had issued a diplomatic "note verbale" seeking appropriate safety measures following clashes involving similar protesters, which had caused damage to India House on August 15 during Indian Independence Day celebrations.