Hundreds have gathered at the Indian High Commission office in London to protest the nation’s treatment of Kashmir following a similar event last year which led to the arrests of four people.
Crowds waving the green and yellow striped flags of Kashmir and raising signs with “end Indian occupation” amassed across the street from the nation’s London embassy in a march that coincides with India’s Republic day – a national holiday marking the establishment of Delhi’s constitution.
The Rise For Kashmir rally comes amid an ongoing crackdown in the Muslim-majority area under PM Narendra Modi, which saw the unstable Himalayan region stripped of its semi-autonomous status and demoted from a state into a federal territory last August.
Internet access, and landline and mobile phone provisions, have been restricted in the region, while a large military presence has been established in the area for almost half a year.
Mohammed Azad, originally from Kashmir, attended Sunday's protest because he thinks the Indian government is infringing on Kashmiri human rights.
He said: "The last five months, people in Kashmir have been under siege.
"No connection outside, no communication, they can't contact anybody."
"A couple of my friends here, their family, they haven't heard from them in five months."
He added: "We are here to ask, please please, let the people in Kashmir decide what they want."
It follows previously violent protests in the capital focussed on India’s relationship with Kashmir.
Four activists were arrested on suspicion of crimes including affray, possession of an offensive weapon, obstruction of police, and breaching the public order act at a rally on 15 August last year.
Earlier this week mayor of London Sadiq Khan expressed concern of a repeat of the incident – flagging the issue to the Home secretary and the chief of London’s police.
“I understand why so many British Indians are so deeply concerned about a repeat of those awful scenes. Many have felt deeply threatened and worried, and I would like to assure all Londoners that anyone who acts unlawfully on Sunday will be held fully accountable by the police.”
He added: “A march similar to the one on 15 August last year would only deepen divisions at a time when all Londoners need to come together, and when people of Indian origin want to celebrate a hugely significant day.
“The right to protest is an important and valued part of our democracy, but it must always be done peacefully and within the boundaries of the law.”
Additional reporting by PA
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