Saturday, May 9, 2009

India's High Commission in London becomes centre of Tamil protest

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London May 10, 2009

The Indian High Commission in London has become the target of protests and vandalism by those supporting the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The protesters have, in the last 10 days, gathered twice outside the high commission.

On April 27, the British police took into custody five of the 1,000 protesters for damaging the building where the high commission is located. Again, on May 5, a group of 200 gathered outside the building, though it later dispersed peacefully. No member of the high commission was hurt in either of these incidents. After the April 27 incident, police presence had been beefed, said a spokesperson for the high commission.

A high commission official said there were no particular groups involved in these mass protests but sympathisers of the Sri Lankan Tamils, caught in the crossfire between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE, have been appealing to the Indian government to help the Tamil civilians. “The Indian government has been sending doctors and providing medical assistance to people who have been affected by what is happening in Sri Lanka,” he said.

There are an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils in the UK. On April 20, an estimated 3,500-4,000 supporters of the Sri Lankan Tamils had gathered at the Westminster Square and blocked traffic for a good part of the day. This protest, under the watch of a large number of Met police personnel, went off peacefully. Following this protest, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had called Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to “emphasise the importance of a ceasefire”.

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