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October 24, 2019

Scotland Yard bans Kashmir protest outside Indian Embassy

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October 24, 2019

LONDON: The Scotland Yard has imposed ban on British Kashmiri protestors from assembling outside the Indian High Commission on 27th October 2019 when thousands will assemble in London from all over the United Kingdom for a major protest against Indian occupation of Kashmir and its lockdown following the revocation of Article 370.

It’s understood that Home Secretary Priti Patel lobbied with the police to get the protest banned outside India House. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said in the parliament that the Home Secretary will be speaking to the police to address concerns of Indian government.

Under Section 14 Public Order Act 1986, the Scotland Yard has restricted the protestors from taking the procession to outside Indian High Commission a short distance from the Parliament Square. The protestors had applied for permission to initiate the “Free Kashmir procession” from outside the Houses of Parliament to Indian High Commission but the police have told the organisers that the protest can only be taken to the Trafalgar Square on the agreed route and not to Indian High Commission.

Kashmiri groups told The News that Indian government had been lobbying Home Secretary Priti Patel, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Tory government to get the march banned. They said that Indian-origin Priti Patel has taken active interest and coordinated with the police. A spokesman of the Home Office, however, told this correspondent that imposing Section 14 was an “operational matter for the police” and nothing to do with the Home Secretary.

The News and Geo have seen the official communication in which the police have said that “any static assembly that is held in London on the 27th October 2019 that is in support of the Muslim Action Forum, World Muslim Federation, Pakistan Patriotic Front, Overseas Pakistan Welfare Council, Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party, the PTI AJK or any other Pro Kashmiri Groups” must make sure that the protest will be located in Parliament Street and “following any procession must be located in Trafalgar Square” and for that the police has provided route maps to the organisers.

The police have imposed conditions that the march must start from Parliament Street; must not commence before 1400Hrs; and the route of the procession must follow the following route: Parliament Street; Whitehall and Trafalgar Square.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had condemned plans to hold march on Diwali and called on the organisers and prospective participants to cancel the protest rally. In response to a letter by Indian-origin London Assembly member Navin Shah, Mayor Khan said, “I absolutely condemn the plans for a protest march to take place on the auspicious day of Diwali, in the vicinity of the Indian High Commission in London. This march will only deepen divisions at a time when Londoners need to come together.”

During a protest of more than 15,000 people outside Indian High Commission on August 15, a group of protestors threw eggs at the walls of the Indian High Commission. Immediately, organisers of the protest and Kashmiri leaders condemned vandalism and told the police to arrest those involved in acts of vandalism. At least three people were arrested from the scene. The Kashmiri groups had said that the hooligans were planted by Indian government to get the assembly banned outside Indian High Commission. Indian govt used the incident to tell the British govt that lives of its staff were put in danger during the protest although there were no staffs inside the building at the time of the protest. A handful had protested in support of Indians outside and both protests passed off peacefully.

Indian govt had formally raised the issue with the British government. It issued a note verbal (or a diplomatic letter) to the UK through High Commission. The matter was raised in the UK Parliament as well by Bob Blackman MP.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had responded: "This is a police operational matter and the home secretary [Priti Patel] will be raising it with the police. We must all be clear in this House that violence and intimidation anywhere is wholly unacceptable in this country."

Lord Nazir Ahmed condemned decision of the police to ban assembly outside the Indian High Commission. He told The News: “This is unacceptable and undemocratic act to ban peaceful march to the Indian High Commission. I will be going to the Indian High Commission as every year.”

Criminal defence lawyer Barrister Moeen Khan explained that under Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act (1986), the police can restrict what takes place during a demonstration, including the duration, the number of people taking place and the areas it occupies.

“These conditions can be imposed in advance or at the time of the demonstrations, usually by a senior officer at the scene. They are imposed ‘as they appear necessary to prevent serious disorder, disruption of the life of the community, or intimidation’.

“In order to be convicted of an offence under section 12 or 14, it must be proved that you were aware of the conditions and then chose to break them. A senior officer may make an announcement, or sometimes visual displays or leaflets are used.

These laws give the police power to move you, using force if necessary, in order to comply with conditions. You can go limp. Knowingly not complying with the conditions is an offence under the act, and can be grounds for arrest, although it is a defence to prove that the failure to comply arose from circumstances out of your control.

If convicted, the maximum penalty is a fine of £1000. First time offenders would be likely to receive a fine of about £200.”

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