On June 3rd, participants of the annual Sikh remembrance march, held in memory of those lost in the events which led to the 1984 Sikh Genocide, Sikhs were left shocked about the no show from traffic police to escort the thousands of marchers through London’s traffic.
The Sikh Federation (UK) has written to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner demanding an apology for police negligence and incompetence by putting the lives of thousands of peaceful Sikh protesters at risk yesterday in central London.
Every year since June 1984 thousands of Sikhs, young and old from across the UK have gathered in central London to protest against the 1984 Sikh Genocide, remember the thousands killed by the Indian authorities for which there has been no justice and demand a separate Sikh homeland, Khalistan.
For the first time in 35 years the Metropolitan Police failed to turn up to stop traffic to allow the protest march between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. Although the organisers believe this is down to police negligence and incompetence and are demanding an apology there is speculation the police may have backed away from supporting the protest due to pressure from the Indian authorities.
In a recent incident in Parliament Square the police have been heavily criticised by the Indian authorities for watching the official Indian flag for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being torn down and ripped to pieces by protesters in Parliament Square. Some in India have also suggested action against the UK Government in international courts.
In recent years we have seen an increasing tendency of forces refusing to police protests.
We have sympathy with hard-pressed forces who struggle to provide the officers to do all the things they need to do.
But making people pay to protest is not the answer.
Freedom of expression and the right to assemble are fundamental human rights, protected by the Human Rights Act.
Together they safeguard our right to peacefully protest. Everybody has that right – not just those who can fork out thousands of pounds to pay for it.
Public protest has been the catalyst for so many moments of positive change, from women’s right to vote to equal pay. It’s the foundation of our free democracy.
And with all the challenges facing our country – environmental, political or both – the right to protest is needed now more than ever.