The British High Commission on March 22 refused to comment after the law enforcement agencies removed the barricades around the British High Commission in Chanakyapur and the residence of the U.K. High Commissioner Alex Ellis. The development came two days after the Indian High Commission in London was vandalised by pro-Khalistan protesters who took down the national tricolour demanding an end to the police action against fugitive Amritpal Singh in Punjab.
“We do not comment on security matters,” said a British High Commission spokesperson to The Hindu after the barricades were removed yesterday. Sources in the mission said that the barrricades were removed by the Delhi Police yesterday without giving any reason. On Sunday, the Ministry of External Affairs had summoneed the seniormost British diplomat and registered a strong protest against the incident in London. British High Commissioner Alex Ellis is currently out of country.
The formal protest was followed by a large anti-U.K. demonstration which was organised outside the U.K. High Commission in Chanakyapuri on Monday. The High Commission was surrounded by the Sikh protesters who demanded that the U.K. authorities should increase security to the Indian mission and other India-related addresses in the U.K. The Ministry of External Affairs has refused to comment to the development, saying, “security issues are not under the Ministry’s purview”.
The removal of the barricades from outside the U.K.’s mission and residence of its top diplomat in New Delhi’s Rajaji Marg revived the memories of the “Khobragade incident” of December 2013 when the barricades around the Embassy of the United States were removed after Indian Consul General in New York Devyani Khobragade was subjected to ill treatment by the U.S. authorities for alleged violation of labour rules in her residence.
Meanwhile, heavy security has been deployed near the Indian High Commission in London today. Around 20 police vans with a few dozen officers are on alert as part of security measures against an anticipated protest later in the day.
A Sergeant Scott who spoke to The Hindu said, “ I think we have a very good policing operation … in place,” adding that “the police is in touch with the Indian High Commission” and they were adequately prepared to stop any untoward incident during the protest.
India’s ties with the U.K. took a nosedive after the BBC broadcast a documentary in January on the Gujarat riots of 2002 titled “India: The Modi Question”. Soon thereafter the BBC was raided by taxmen who called the move a “survey” . The raid by a team of the income tax officials drew attention in the U.K.’s Parliament where MPs condemned the raid and the Labour party termed it “deeply worrying”.
The U.K.’s mission has been one of the most secure diplomatic addresses in New Delhi for decades and the measures were further tightened after the war in Afghanistan of 2001 when the security perimetre was expanded and stronger walls were erected around the mission and the residential quarters of serving British diplomats. Though there has been no recent attacks against the High Commission and staff, the Deputy High Commissioner of the U.K. Percy Norris was killed in 1984 by unknown assailants in Mumbai. The case was never fully investigated.