Washington, March 21
A group of pro-Khalistan protesters on Sunday made an attempt to set on fire India's consulate in San Francisco, with senior Indian diplomats informing their American counterparts that they anticipate more such protests by anti-national elements in the coming weeks.
The incident is reported to have taken place around 4.20 am on Sunday, a portion of which was captured on the consulate's CCTV.
It is believed that two bearded men wearing a cap, who remain unidentified so far, poured flammable material at the entrance of the Indian mission in San Francisco and tried to put the building on flame, sources told PTI.
However, the fire did not spread for reasons not known, possibly due to the building material or the quality of flammable liquid, multiple sources told PTI on Monday.
The consulate in San Francisco immediately took up the matter with the city police and concerned authorities at multiple levels from San Francisco to Washington DC.
However, the protestors went violent later in the day.
Around 11 hours later, in the absence of a strong law enforcement and city police presence, pro-Khalistan supporters broke the makeshift barricade, forced entry inside the premises of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco and hammered at the doors and windows, shattered the glass panes after their Khalistan flag was removed by the mission staffers.
In the process, one of the consulate employees sustained minor injuries. The Indian Consulate in San Francisco and senior officials from the Indian Embassy here have lodged a very strong protest at multiple levels in the US Government and the California State Government.
On Monday, the Khalistani protestors pitched a tent outside the San Francisco consulate. Among those present in the protest were those who were part of the vandalism and defacing of Indian property. The local Indian American community is outraged that the San Francisco Police have taken no action against them.
Several people who came to the consulate for passport or visa services were harassed by the protestors and in some cases even obstructed from entering the premises.
Multiple sources told PTI that it all started on Saturday evening when a group of Khalistan activists pitched a tent in front of the consulate premises and started the protest.
Saturday evening, the separatist Sikhs defaced the wall and premises of the consulate with graffiti. Consulate employees were quick enough to remove the graffiti. All the concerned law enforcement authorities were immediately informed about it. They were told that they had information that the protest might turn violent.
On Sunday – around 4.20 am as captured on CCTV of the consulate – there was a serious attempt to put the building on fire. Local officials were soon informed about this failed attempt, which if successful could have dented permanent damage to the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Senior Indian diplomats have told their American counterparts that they anticipate more such protests by anti-national and anti-social elements in the coming weeks and months. Security has been beefed up at all the Indian diplomatic missions in the US.
Separatist Sikhs have held a similar protest in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. But the protest remained a peaceful one, mainly because of the pro-activeness of the Washington DC Police and Diplomatic Security.
But this wasn't the case in San Francisco, which till Monday had not deployed enough security to prevent and no action has been taken so far against those responsible for such unprecedented vandalism and defacing of the Indian Consulate.
In recent months there has been a rise in anti-India activities in Canada, Australia and the UK by Khalistan supporters who have vandalised some Hindu temples in these countries. India on Monday lodged a strong protest with the US Charge d'Affaires in Delhi over the incident of vandalism at the Indian consulate general in San Francisco by some pro-Khalistan elements during a protest.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi said the US government was asked to take appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
"In a meeting with the US Charge d'Affaires in New Delhi, India conveyed its strong protest at the vandalisation of the property of the Consulate General of India, San Francisco," the MEA said.
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