by LAUREN CODLING AND RITHIKA SIDDHARTHA
LONDON mayor Sadiq Khan urged demonstrators to act respectfully over the Diwali weekend, ahead of planned anti-India protests due to take place in the city over the weekend.
Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the world will celebrate the annual festival of lights on Sunday (27).
Khan made the remarks at a Diwali reception in City Hall last night (24), an event organised by Eastern Eye’s publishers, the Asian Media Group.
His comments came as the Metropolitan Police announced today (25) they would be restrictions on anti-India marches and rallies in London relating to Kashmir over Diwali weekend. An estimated 5,000-10,000 protesters are set to commence a march from Richmond Terrace near Downing Street and converge outside the Indian High Commission (IHC) in Aldwych, central London.
A previous protest in summer became violent as an anti-India demonstration took place in front of India House on August 15 – India’s Independence Day.
In response to the Met’s decision to impose restrictions, Khan said that he was “pleased” that the police were making efforts to safeguard the building and its surroundings.
“It is really important that we respect each other, rather than do things that cause offence or cause issues,” Khan said.
He added: “I’m quite clear – what is really important is that here in London, we have diverse communities of different ethnic origins and religious origins that live together very well. “We’ve got the realise that when there are disputes around the world, we have to be honest and realise how impact we could have on them – making them worse rather than better.
“What I’ve been keen to do in London is make sure that when we’ve got people demonstrating or protesting aggressively or in a violent way, I’ve made sure that I’ve had my views heard loud and clear by the Met Police service in relation to how they protest outside the (Indian) High Commission. I’m pleased that the protest taking place this weekend that the police have made sure that there are conditions in place to safeguard the IHC. It is really important that we respect each other, rather than do things that cause offense or cause issues.”
Earlier this week, Khan responded to London Assembly member Navin Shah, stating that he condemned the protest march taking place.
“This march will only deepen divisions at a time when Londoners need to come together,” he wrote. “That is why I am calling on those organising the march and all those considering taking part in it to think again and cancel their plans.”
At the Diwali reception on Thursday evening, Khan appeared to distance himself from the Labour resolution on the Kashmir conflict during the party conference last month, which supported “international intervention in Kashmir and a call for UN led-referendum.”
Khan told Eastern Eye that it was important to recognise that “you can have good intentions but cause problems that cause issues rather than benefits”.
However, he added: “I’m responsible for policies in London, not for the national Labour party.”
DAC Matt Twist, the Gold Commander in charge of the Met policing operation, said: “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.
“Those attending the demonstrations can expect to see a significant police presence. “
Failure to adhere to these conditions may lead to arrest and prosecution.