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Peaceful demonstration to remove statues of Henry Havelock and Robert Clive

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on June 16, 2020 with No Comments

A peaceful demonstration along with a few Indians was organised at the Trafalgar square and king Charles Street in Central London on June 14.

Prominent Indians in United Kingdom like Amaninder Singh Mohali, Simarjit Singh Babbar and Mohanjit Singh undertook the peaceful protest.  Amongst those who participated in the peaceful march, the Weekly Asian Connection talked to DSP Gurjot Singh Kaler who is also present in London these days.

He told us that it was a completely peaceful and non violent demonstration. In fact, it was not a protest but a request to urge the British Government to fulfill the long standing demand of the Indians to remove the statues of Major General Henry Havelock and Robert Clive who represent the ideas of colonial domination and enslavement.  Henry Havelock had brutally suppressed the revolt of 1857 and had crushed the India’s first struggle for Independence. Robert Clive had looted and plundered the wealth of Indians and was responsible for causing the tragic famine in Bengal.

Gurjot said that the motivation for raising this important issue came when he saw the Edward Colston’s statue being pulled down violently in Bristol on 7th June by the protestors as a part of Black Lives Matter protests which have rocked the entire UK.

“I felt that violence is not the answer to any problem. The use of violent means can never justify the peaceful ends, no matter how noble the cause is in life. Therefore, at that time, the idea came that it is important to become a symbol of peace and non-violence and create a good example for other races and communities. Moreover, I believe that I am a citizen in uniform and therefore, I had a double sense of responsibility to create a good example in front of the world. This became especially true when a police officer in America recently displayed racial discrimination to kill a black person called George Floyd. As a result, the image of police everywhere in the world took a bad beating. Hence, I decided to use legal means of displaying a peaceful protest against any kind of discrimination or colonialism. We supported the police and administration during the demonstration and did not allow any bad incident to take place. Also, It was not for my personal cause but a bigger, national cause.”

Gurjot also told us that the UK government gives complete liberty to its citizens, workers and residents to express their point of view through peaceful protests. There were around 250 people who were supposed to march from the India House to Trafalgar square and lodge a peaceful protest. However, the police did not give the permission to so many people due to fears of corona virus and also, the lockdown still in place.

Therefore, the police allowed only a few people to go ahead and undertake just a symbolic protest at the place of statues. We also fully supported the view of the health authorities and did not want to create any problem for the local administration as it is a health pandemic. So, we agreed with the police to conduct a symbolic demonstration only in a peaceful way.

Gurjot Singh Kaler further told us that since the world is today fighting against discrimination and racism in all forms, therefore, we have requested the British Government to kindly remove the colonial statues of Henry Havelock and Robert Clive in a legal and peaceful manner by following a process of law.

Both these statues are still standing tall in the heart of London and are an insult to the sentiments of Indians. They represent the colonial mindsets which need to be brought down and put in a museum or at any “less relevant” place and not in the heart of London.

The modern Britain needs to be freed from its colonial baggage of past misdeeds and atrocities against Indians.The UK needs to stop glorifying colonialism and shun the past habit of celebrating colonialism as it pains the heart of every Indian.

As Indian residents who have the status of a commonwealth citizen in UK, we have also created a written petition to formally request the UK government to pursue this matter and would be soon taking up the matter with the PMO office and the foreign office.

Gurjot Singh Kaler clarified that the supporters in today’s protest were not of any political party. We are a bunch of spirited citizens who want a better world which is free from any racism, any discrimination and any glorification of colonialism in 21st Century.

I would like to emphasise here that we are against any type of violence, against any type of hooliganism and we only want to pursue our goals in a peaceful and non-violent manner.

Our motivation to do this came last week on 7th June when the blacks and whites community violently brought down a statue in Bristol, UK of Edward Colston who was perceived to be a slave trader of Africans. At that time, we decided that we will also raise the issue of glorification of colonialism in London but only in a peaceful manner by walking on the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. It was an emotional moment for me and the entire history of Indian Independence flashed before the eyes and all colonial atrocities faced by our forefathers and freedom struggle leaders came to the mind.

He said that it is not the first time that the issue of removal of Henry Havelock and Robert Clive statue has been raised. Even in the year 2000, the then mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, had raised this important issue and even now, more than 7000 signatures have been raised by Indians in UK for the removal of Robert Clive statue.

The third request of today’s peaceful protest was to rename the Havelock road in London as the “Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji” road in the honour of First Sikh Guru Sahib as that road has the Largest gurudwara of Sikhs outside India and the Sikh community has been always at the forefront of helping everyone in UK whenever any need arises.

We believe that a good action should always be supported and promoted. It is not the action of bad people but the silence of good people that leads to suffering in the world.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., ” Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Similarly, hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that”.

Indeed, it is time to see a world free from all types of racism, discrimination and colonialism.


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