The Metropolitan Police have apologized for “disrespecting” Sikhs during a recent protest in London.
The Met issued a statement on Sunday apologizing for the Met’s handling of the protest – organized by the Sikh Lives Matter group over the killing of Sikh demonstrators in India.
The peaceful protest outside the Indian High Commission in Holborn on 22 October turned violent after some protestors decided to block the busy road outside the mission, leading to scuffles with riot and mounted police.
In the statement, Commander Mak Chishty, the head of community engagement of the Met, said: “An incident occurred where a Met police officer is seen to take a ‘Nishan Sahib’, a sacred flag, from a protestor, snap the stick and throw it to the floor. This is deeply disrespectful to the Sikh community and is not acceptable. I understand the distress and hurt that has been caused and I sincerely apologize to our Sikh community for this.”
Commander Chishty also apologized after Kirpans – the sword with a curved blade carried by devout Sikhs – were confiscated from two of the protestors.
Chisty pledged to educate his officers of the importance of these religious symbols for the future.
The officer met representatives of the Sikh community at New Scotland Yard on October 28 as he “became aware of growing concerns” over the policing of the protest, he said.
“I believe we have a great and long standing relationship with our Sikh Community with mutual trust, confidence and respect being built over many years,” he said.
“This enabled us to meet and discuss a number of concerns in an open, honest and constructive way. I am grateful to the Sikh community for meeting with me and enabling a better understanding on both of our parts.
“I would like to reassure the Sikh community that no disrespect or offence was intended and apologise for any distress, hurt or offence that has been caused.”
The protest was attended by hundreds of Sikhs and came a week after police in the Punjab shot and killed two young men who were protesting against the alleged desecration of the Sikh holy book – the Guru Granth Sahib.
Protestors also denounced Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the UK and called for the establishment of Khalistan – a separate homeland for India’s Sikhs.
Clashes broke out an hour into the demonstration.
One police officer suffered an injury to the head in the scuffles that ensued and had to be taken to hospital.
Some twenty protestors were arrested.
A number of protestors expressed disappointment with the way the protest had ended suggesting that a peaceful protest had been hijacked by some unruly elements.