August 18, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
by: Gurjeet Singh*
On 4 June the day after the 1984 Sikh Genocide Remembrance March and Freedom Rally in central London the Sikh Federation (UK) wrote to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
The letter demanded an apology to the Sikh community for police negligence and incompetence by putting the lives of thousands of peaceful Sikh protesters at risk in central London. For the first time in 35 years the Metropolitan Police failed to turn up to stop traffic to allow the protest march between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square.
The no show from traffic police that forced Sikh volunteers to close roads was unacceptable and the Sikh community was left without police support and penalised for being well behaved and law abiding.
The situation was further complicated when Cressida Dick wrote to Preet Kaur Gill MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs on 13 June categorically stating Commander Jane Connors was “in contact with the Indian High Commission to discuss the policing of this event.” This admission caused outrage in the Sikh community as it provided proof of Indian government interference in policing a peaceful protest march to remember the 1984 Sikh Genocide. Later Commander Connors indicated in a meeting with Sikh representatives this had been an administrative “cock up” in the Commissioner’s office and denied contacting the Indian High Commission.
The Mayor of London wrote to the chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) on 5 July apologising for delay and emphasising the need for a prompt and transparent answer to our concerns. He continued senior police officers responsible for public order were investigating this as a priority.
On 20 July representatives of the Sikh Federation (UK) responsible for liaising with the police and other public bodies on behalf of the Federation of Sikh Organisations met Commander Jane Connors who accepted all responsibility and apologised for the systematic failings by the Met Police from start to finish over a six month period. She said she was liaising with the Mayor’s office and other public bodies such as TfL and Westminster City Council on the new Pan London policy to avoid any repeat for such a large protest march.
Commander Connors agreed to provide a formal written apology and a more personal video message that could be shared with the thousands of Sikhs that took part. The letter of apology was received on 7 August, but when asked about the video message expressed her reluctance to provide it stating: “I feel that a video apology would be very impersonal.” Our own view is she did this to save her own skin.
A spokesperson for the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “This was a catalogue of errors by the Metropolitan Police Service at every level that should have been avoided. It was a miracle no one was killed or seriously injured due to the gross negligence of the police.”
“We were promised a personal video apology by the Commander who we met nearly a month ago that we could share with the thousands of Sikhs from across the UK that took part in the 35th 1984 Sikh Genocide Remembrance march on 3 June. However, our request has fallen on deaf ears so we are now going public with the Commander’s letter of apology.”
“The organisers are considering if further action is necessary as significant mistakes have been admitted in writing. In our view there must be accountability and disciplinary action so we await to hear what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Mayor of London will do to make sure tens of thousands of Sikhs that take part in an annual event are never exposed to the same risk.”
* S. Gurjeet Singh is National Press Secretary of the Sikh Federation UK.