“Free Speech Does Not Mean Licence To Incite Violence”: India Caucus Co-Chairs Denounce Khalistan Rally In San Francisco

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Washington DC [US]: Amid an arson attack on the Indian Consulate by pro-Khalistanis in San Fransisco and their ensuing rally on July 8, the co-chairs of India Caucus condemned such elements, saying free speech is not a license to provoke violence.

The remarks by the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India, Ro Khanna and Michael Waltz, came days after the arson attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco by pro-Khalistan elements.

The two US Congressmen in a press release said, “As the co-chairs of the India Caucus, we strongly condemn the attempted arson and vandalism at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco and the posters circulating on social media with violent rhetoric aimed at Indian diplomats, including Ambassador Sandhu.”

They also appealed to the US State Department to investigate the damage and take necessary action.

“We support the right to free speech and freedom of expression for every American, but that is not a license to vandalize property or incite violence. Violence against diplomatic facilities is a criminal offence and will not be tolerated. We urge the State Department to coordinate with law enforcement in their investigation of the damage at the Indian Consulate expeditiously and hold those involved accountable,” the release added.

Congressmen Khanna, meanwhile, said that he knows the Ambassador of India to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu and respects him.

“I know Ambassador Sandhu & respect him. When I bring up human rights issues, he always engages with civility, thoughtfulness & candour. This rhetoric puts diplomats in harm’s way. It’s dangerous & has no place in a democracy. Free speech does not mean a license to incite violence,” tweeted US Congressman Ro Khanna.

Earlier, on July 2, around 1.40 am (local time), a group of Khalistan radicals made an attempt to set the Indian Consulate in San Francisco on fire, sources told ANI.

A video of the incident was verified by sources who told ANI the fire was suppressed quickly by the San Francisco Fire Department. The Local San Francisco police department, special diplomatic security personnel, and state and federal authorities were notified and began investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu and Dr TV Nagendra Prasad, Consul General, Consulate General of India, San Francisco, were targeted in a poster purportedly circulated by Sikh extremists, who accused them of playing a role in the June killing of Khalistan Tiger Force chief and designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.

According to sources, India on Monday (July 3) raised concerns over threats to its diplomats in posters being circulated in Canada with information on a pro-Khalistan rally to be held on July 8. The posters contained threats to the Indian ambassador to Canada and the consulate general in Toronto.

A similar poster announcing the rally date also come to the fore in San Francisco.
The rally is being held in the name of Harjit Singh Nijjar aka Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Khalistani terrorist who was killed in a targeted shooting in Canada’s Surrey on June 18.

Earlier, on Thursday, top White House official Kurt Campbell termed the attack on Indian Consulate as “deeply regrettable”, saying the United States was taking steps to ensure that the Indian diplomatic community feels safe and secure in the country.

Campbell, the US National Security Council’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, said, “First of all, let me say that these are deeply regrettable events. We take very seriously the safety and security of diplomats that are living in the United States. We have been in close contact with Indian authorities, with local law enforcement.”

“We are trying to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Indian diplomatic community feels safe and secure here. And we’ll continue with that work going forward,” Campbell told media.

Earlier, on July 4, the spokesperson for the US State Department, said the US strongly condemned the vandalism and attempted arson by pro-Khalistan supporters in San Francisco.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Monday (July 4) (local time) tweeted, “The US strongly condemns the reported vandalism and attempted arson against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco on Saturday. Vandalism or violence against diplomatic facilities or foreign diplomats in the US is a criminal offence.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, issued a strongly worded statement saying India will take up the issue of Khalistanis with partner countries.

Jaishankar said India has requested its partner countries, including Canada, the UK and the US, to not give space to the Khalistanis as it will affect their relationship.

This is not for the first time that the San Francisco consulate has come under attack.
In March this year, several protesters, raising pro-Khalistan slogans, broke open the makeshift security barriers raised by the SF city police and installed two so-called Khalistani flags inside the Consulate premises. Two consulate personnel soon removed these flags.

The US government condemned the violent incidents that took place during protests at Indian diplomatic facilities in the US, while adding that violence, or the threat of violence is never an acceptable form of protest and is of “grave concern.”

Multiple incidents of protests by Khalistan supporters have been staged outside the Indian embassy and the San Francisco Consulate.

However, no action against any person or group has been taken as yet.
The extremist Sikh group are also planning to rally outside the Indian missions in the US on July 8.

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