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Fed up, Indian diplomats want Tamil protesters moved

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Indian diplomats have had it with Tamil protests. Regular raucous protests by thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils outside the Indian High Commission in London are becoming a nuisance and preventing the smooth functioning of the mission, Indian diplomats have complained.

“Under the Vienna Convention, the host country is supposed to ensure that we can function properly – and this is not happening,” a senior Indian diplomat, who did not want to be identified, told IANS after the latest demonstration Tuesday.

“It’s no good simply preventing physical damage. The host country is responsible for ensuring the normal functioning of diplomatic missions in the capital,” the clearly exasperated diplomat said.

“We want to be able to get to India House, and get on with our job without this hassle of having to walk past protesters or sneak in through the back door,” he added.

Although Tuesday’s protests passed off without an incident, with India House being provided adequate police protection, previous such demonstrations have led to violence by Tamils.

A demonstration by Tamils April 27 turned ugly when a group of protesters forced their way into the High Commission, while others damaged windowpanes.

Police arrested five people, and an alarmed High Commission requested the British foreign office to ensure that it was provided adequate protection.

At the end of another large demonstration last month, a bust of Jawaharlal Nehru kept outside the High Commission was found displaced, although Indian diplomats pointedly refused to blame Tamils for the incident.

The Indian High Commission in London is among the busiest Indian missions, and several visitors are reported to have felt intimidated and asked why the protesters cannot be kept at a distance – such as across the road – from where the mission is situated.

There is also some surprise over why the Tamils, only a minority of whom are said to be hardcore supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), have targeted the Indian mission for their protests.

“Contrary to what the Tigers claim, the Indians are not helping the Sri Lankan armed forces,” said Sri Lankan High Commission spokesman Walter Jayawardhana.

Indian diplomats say they want protests to be moved across the road – a practice that is followed by London police for demonstrations at the Chinese embassy.

(Dipankar De Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])