After Indian envoy to the UK Vikram Doraiswami was barred from entering a gurdwara in Scotland, the Indian High Commission issued a response in which it said that the "planned interaction" involving the High Commissioner and the Consul General of India was disrupted by "non-local extremist elements",
A video was posted on the Instagram handle of 'Sikh Youth UK', in which a man, allegedly a Khalistani supporter, was seen?blocking Doraiswami from entering the Glasgow Gurdwara in Scotland and said, "...They are hurting Sikhs in Canada and other places, every Sikh should protest against any Indian Ambassador as we did here in Glasgow."
"On September 29, 2023, three persons— all from areas outside Scotland—deliberately disrupted a planned interaction organized by the Gurudwara Committee for the community, the High Commissioner and the Consul General of India. This interaction was to discuss community and consular issues," the Indian High Commission said in a statement.
The High Commission further said that organisers of the event comprised community leaders, gurdwara committee members and a member of the Scottish Parliament, who were threatened and abused by these elements.
The High Commissioner and Consul General of India left the premises of the Glasgow Gurdwara to avoid any potential altercation with the 'extremist elements', it further said.
"One of the non-local extremist elements attempted to violently force open the HC's car door - a matter that will require suitable police consideration. It is due to the quick reaction of one of the organizers, who physically intervened at the car door, that a bigger incident was avoided," the Commission further mentioned.
The matter has been addressed to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Metropolitan Police. Several community organisations including the organisers of the event formally regretted the incident and urged authorities to take action against the culprits, said the Indian High Commission.
The meeting at the gurdwara was part of the events at the request of the gurdwara committee for the envoy to meet Sikh groups and address their concerns, sources said, adding that the unnecessary altercation of few "radical elements" interrupted a community engagement planned by peace-loving Sikhs.
Reactions to the incident
Earlier today, sources said that the matter has been raised with UK authorities over Doraiswami not being allowed on the premises of the gurdwara. The sources also said that the issue raised concerns about the security provided to the Indian diplomats there.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, British MP and Minister of State for Indo-Pacific, expressed concern over the incident and said that the safety of foreign diplomats is of "utmost importance" and that worship places should be open for all.
The incident was widely criticised by several figures. Ruchi Ghanashyam, India's former High Commissioner to the UK, expressed solidarity with Doraiswami. "This should not have happened and the dignity and respect for the High Commissioner should have been maintained,” she said.
"I believe that the authorities in Scotland should have provided due security to him (Doraiswami) for the visit. From the reports that I have read it appears that it was a group of disgruntled people, misguided people. The Gurdwara committee seems to have invited the High Commissioner and some ruffians apparently came there and disturbed the event," Ghanashyam continued.
In India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa condemned the attempt to stop Doraiswami from entering the gurdwara and commented that the Sikh religion does not believe in violence.
"Sikhs are the saviours. PM Modi has praised the work of our community. Sikhs are represented everywhere in the world. The safest place for the Sikhs in the world is in India…," he said.
Meanwhile, the author of a UK-commissioned review focusing on official engagement with people of different faiths said that the British government needs to put in more effort in dealing with "extremist fringe elements".
"My report “The Bloom Review” highlighted the vast majority of British Sikhs are amazing people, but this tiny and aggressive minority are not representative of them. The UK Government need to do more to deal with these extremist fringe elements," said Colin Bloom, an independent faith engagement advisor to the UK Government.
Backdrop of Canada row
The post by ‘Sikh Youth UK’ claims that there is an ongoing ban on Indian officials visiting the gurdwara in their official capacities. The video then shows another man saying that this is how any Indian ambassador or any Indian government official who visits the Gurdwara will be treated.
The UK incident comes amid strained ties between India and Canada ties following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of "credible evidence" of the Indian government’s involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Notably, Khalistani activities have taken strength in both UK and Canada with several demonstrations against Indian diplomats. Earlier this month, Sunak said that the UK is working closely with its partners in the Indian government to tackle the threat from pro-Khalistan extremism.
(with agency input)