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Indian students occupy HC London over corona crisis

Top Story

March 22, 2020

LONDON: Over 150 students have occupied the Indian High Commission in London since Friday with a demand of being repatriated to India during the travel crisis caused by coronavirus. In a mass show of force, the students forced their entry in the premises of the Indian High Commission and chanted slogans against the Indian government's treatment of Indian students stranded in the UK. The students agitated that the Modi government has slapped ban on them without paying any heed to their considerations and the danger that has been caused to them. The students have taken control over many rooms of the Indian High Commission. Sources within the Indian High Commission have confirmed that counsellor staff has lost control of the premises with even the reception controlled by Indian students at this time. Earlier on Saturday, KLM flight 871 from Amsterdam carrying almost 100 Indians was sent back to The Netherlands due to a lack of clarity of the exact travel restrictions. The flight was carrying mostly travellers stranded while in transit from destinations like the US and Canada, but civil aviation authorities refused to allow it to land in New Delhi as the entry of all passengers from European countries had been banned.

In a tweet, the Indian High Commission has confirmed that international flight operations to India have been suspended till 31st March and have asked Indian students in the UK to follow National Health Services (NHS) guidelines in combatting the virus. After the extremely powerful protest of Indian students, the Indian High Commission has provided accommodation at subsidized rates at Station Hotel which is opposite Victoria Station.

One in five student visas issued by the UK Home Office goes to Indian students. Just last year, over 30,000 Indian students came to study in the UK. Due to the travel ban, tens of thousands of Indian origin students are stuck in the UK with minimal support from the Indian government. As of the filing of this report, around 80 students were still present in the Indian High Commission. One of the student leaders who remained inside the High Commission on Saturday evening told The News and Geo that their protest will continue.

He said: “I cannot give you name because I fear repercussions back home by the Modi regime but I can confirm that we are in control of the High Commission. We had to take the action because the government officials don’t care for us. The Indian High Commission should be looking after us but their job is to protect interests of Modi, BJP and RSS. These officials don’t care about tens of millions of Indians. For them, only those who believe in the fascist Hinduta ideology matter and no one else.”

The student complained that on Friday night, High Commission officials threatened to use force against them. “I want to warn the Indian government that using force against us will be considered an illegal act in the UK.”