NEW DELHI: A day after the external affairs ministry (MEA) said India has issued a demarche to the British government against a 'Sikhs for Justice' rally planned in London next month, the British High Commission in India said that in the UK, "people have (the) right to gather and demonstrate views within (the) law", reported news agency ANI.
On Thursday, a campaign calling for a global referendum to determine whether Sikhs should have their own independent state was launched in London. Unveiling its plans, the pro-Khalistan group 'Sikhs for Justice' said it would hold its first global rally at Trafalgar Square in London on August 12.
The British High Commission responded on Friday.
"In (the) UK people have right to gather and demonstrate views within (the) law. We won't tolerate groups who spread hate or raise community fears by bringing disorder to towns and cities. Police have powers to deal with such activities," said the High Commission on the 'Sikhs for Justice' meet in August, said ANI.
Thursday's announcement by 'Sikhs for Justice' invited a sharp reaction from the Indian government.
"We have seen reports and I would like to confirm that we have taken this matter up with the UK government. We have also issued a demarche to them," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
"We expect that the UK government will not allow any such group, whose intention is to spread hatred and impact our bilateral relations, to use its country," Kumar said.
The MEA spokesman added most Sikhs, whether living in Britain or other countries, had very good relations with India.
"I believe that these are fringe elements and their job is to spread hatred and communal disharmony," he added.
Sikhs for Justice says that the rally will call for a referendum in 2020 to give the nearly 30 million Sikhs across the world - including those in India - a chance to vote for the creation of an independent sovereign state of Khalistan.
The group claims that the case for a referendum in Punjab was formally submitted to the secretary general of the United Nations and the assistant secretary-general for human rights by 14 US-based Sikh groups in August last year.