Scotland Yard has apologised for the “unacceptable” actions of some of its officers during a Sikh protest outside the Indian High Commission in London last week.
Twenty arrests were made after hundreds of Sikh protesters clashed with the Metropolitan Police on October 22 during a demonstration against the alleged police brutality on community members in Punjab.
One police officer was taken to hospital with a head injury.
However, there were reports of the peaceful rally turning violent after police became heavy-handed with the protesters.
“I would like to reassure the Sikh community that no disrespect or offence was intended and apologise for any distress, hurt or offence that has been caused,” Commander Mak Chishty, the Met’s head of community engagement, said.
“I requested a meeting with the Sikh community as I had become aware of concerns over the policing of the protest at the Indian High Commission on Thursday, October 22.
“An incident occurred where a Met Police officer was seen to take a Nishan Sahib, a sacred flag, from a protester, snap the stick and throw it to the floor. This is deeply disrespectful to the Sikh community and is not acceptable,” he said.
It also emerged that police had removed kirpans, a ceremonial knife carried by Sikhs, from two protesters following their arrests against the orders of a senior officer.
“I am also aware that kirpans were removed from two people once they had been arrested.
“This was against the direction of the senior officer present, who immediately apologised,” Chishty said. He added that officers deployed on future protests involving Sikh demonstrators would be briefed on the significance of the Nishan Sahib and kirpans.
A social media group called #SikhLivesMatter has been created in the UK to draw attention to the “acts of Indian government’s atrocities which often go unnoticed in the mainstream media”.
Jasveer Singh Gill, a spokesperson for the Sikh Press Association, who was at the protest, said: “The point of the protest was to raise awareness and show Indians that Sikhs of the UK stand in solidarity with the community in the Punjab who are suffering at the hands of Indian authorities.”