12th March 2021   •   article
MPs warn Home Secretary of religious tensions in India spreading to the UK

by Barfi Culture Team | @barfi_culture.
Image: BBC Newsnight
Over the last few weeks, a poster has been circulating British Sikh messageboards and WhatsApp groups, claiming a pro-Indian government rally was due to take place on 27th February. The rallies were due to target prominent Gurdwaras across London, Birmingham and Leicester for protest and had raised alarm among Sikhs.

This news-magazine chose not to report on the rallies in advance to avoid inflaming tensions.

Barfi Culture has now learnt that three London MPs (Seema Malhotra, Virendra Sharma and Ruth Cadbury MPs) were so concerned about the rallies they urged the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to intervene.

The Home Secretary's response is published below.

In the end the rallies did not take place. But the incident illustrates a growing concern among MPs, community groups and religious institutions that events in India are causing tensions between communities in the UK.

On Monday 8th March, Parliament hosted a debate on the protests in India, following a government petition that had gathered over 100,00 signatures. Seema Malhotra MP again mentioned the proposed rallies at the debate.

MP Tan Dhesi pointed out that Sikhs in India and abroad have been called separatists or smeared as 'terrorists' merely for supporting farmers.

In recent weeks there have been a number of incidents of inter-community tensions outside of India.

  • In Australia, in a suburb near Sydney, a rally by supporters of India's BJP government had to be intercepted by police before it got to the Gurdwara.

  • In Canada, there have been several reports of disturbances caused at pro-Modi rallies and involved the police.

  • A few weeks ago, the Sikh Council UK warned of rising tensions in the UK as a result of the Indian government's rhetoric in India. Soon after, the more liberal-minded group City Sikhs echoed the same concerns.

    Later, the Hindu Council UK also joined the chorus in warning of tensions, but diplomatically avoided pointing any fingers.

    Home Secretary's response to London MPs

    Re: Car Rallies Planned for 27th Feb 2021

    "Thank you for your letter of 22nd February regarding the advertised car rallies in Southall, Leicester and Birmingham on 27th February, by a group calling itself ‘Proud Indians’. I fully appreciate the concerns you raise regarding the potential impacts of such rallies on local communities, and the divisions and tensions that these types of protests could create."

    "My officials are in close contact with the National Police Coordination Centre and relevant police forces regarding this issue. Whilst it has not yet been possible to identify the specific individuals behind the advertised vehicle rallies, I have recently received information from the affected forces that the supposed organiser has indicated that they have cancelled their protest plans."

    "You will also be aware that across the Metropolitan Police Service, Leicestershire Police and West Midlands Police they have substantial policing plans in place in relation to these vehicle rallies. All three Police Forces have well-established links with their local Sikh communities and will remain in close contact with them to hear concerns and provide re-assurance, for example through the Leicestershire Sikh Police Association."

    "I would like to reassure you that I am following this issue closely and continue to work the police on all matters associated with this issue."

    You can read the letter here

    Barfi Culture has asked the Home Office for comment on whether there are plans to prepare for further such incidents, and whether the government is considering ways to lower inter-community tensions. This story will be updated with their response.
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