Washington-based Indian journalist Lalit Jha was reportedly physically attacked and verbally abused by Khalistan supporters in Washington while he was covering a pro-Khalistan protest outside the Indian Embassy. The embassy in the US has condemned the incident.
Jha yesterday thanked US Secret Service for protecting him, and helping him do his job. He said he was hit on his left ear with two sticks by the Khalistan supporters. He also shared a video of the Khalistan supporters on his Twitter handle.
"Thank you @SecretService 4 my protection 2day 4 helping do my job, otherwise I would have been writing this from hospital. The gentleman below hit my left ear with these 2 sticks & earlier I had to call 9/11 & rushed 2 police van 4 safety fearing physical assault," Jha tweeted.
"At one point I felt so threatened that I called 911. I then spotted Secret Service officers and narrated the incident to them," Jha told ANI, adding that the protesters took charge of the situation.
However, the journalist decided to take no action against those who heckled him.
"The pro-Khalistan protesters in support of Amritpal (Singh) waved Khalistan flags and descended upon the embassy in the presence of the US Secret Service. They even openly threatened to vandalise the embassy and threatened the Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu," Jha told ANI.
The protesters included turbaned men of all ages who raised pro-Khalistan slogans. They came in from different parts of the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area. The organisers used microphones to make anti-India speeches both in English and Punjabi and targeted the Punjab Police for alleged human rights violations.
Condemning the incident, the Indian embassy said in a statement, "We condemn such a grave and unwarranted attack on a senior journalist. Such activities only underscore the violent and anti-social tendencies of the so-called 'Khalistani protestors' and their supporters, who routinely engage in wanton violence and vandalism."
"We have seen disturbing visuals of a senior Indian journalist from the Press Trust of India being abused, threatened & assaulted physically while covering so-called 'Khalistan protest' in Washington DC earlier today," the Indian embassy said.
The Indian embassy also thanked the law enforcement agencies for their prompt response in the matter.
"We understand that the journalist was first verbally intimidated, then physically assaulted, and fearing for his personal safety and well-being, had to call in law enforcement agencies, who responded promptly," the press release further said.
Multiple events of protests by supporters of Khalistan have been staged outside the Indian embassy and the San Francisco Consulate. The Indian Consulate in San Francisco was also attacked on March 20.
Visuals shared online showed a huge mob brandishing Khalistan flags mounted on wooden poles, using them to smash glass doors and windows of the consulate building. They raised pro-Khalistan slogans as they broke through the makeshift security barriers raised by the city police and installed two Khalistan flags inside the premises.
The United States strongly condemned the attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco by a group of separatists, terming it absolutely unacceptable. The US has also pledged to defend the safety and security of such diplomatic facilities and the diplomats who work there.
"The United States condemns the attack against the Indian Consulate and any attack against diplomatic facilities within the United States. We pledge to defend the safety and security of these facilities as well as the diplomats who work within them," a US State Department spokesperson told ANI.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Twitter that the US condemns the acts of violence against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. He further said that the US is committed to the safety and security of Indian diplomats.
He confirmed that the US State Department is in touch with the local law enforcement authorities.