London: Hundreds of people turned out at Trafalgar Square here on Sunday in support of a pro-Khalistan rally as well as to counter the event with an Independence Day celebration.
The "We Stand With India" and "Love My India" events were organised by Indian diaspora groups as a reaction to the pro-Khalistan "London Declaration for a Referendum 2020".
The pro-India group, confined to a demarcated area of the square away from the anti-India rally, waved the Indian tricolour and placards reading "India Jai Ho" and "Vande Mataram" and beat their dhols in an attempt to drown out some of the speeches in favour of the so-called Referendum 2020.
"Indian Sikhs don't want this Referendum 2020, they don't even know what this Referendum is about, who is organising and why," said Navdeep Singh, one of the organisers being the pro-India demonstration.
On the other end, the pro-Khalistani supporters shouted slogans such as 'Khalistan Zindabad' and waved anti-India placards.
Pakistani-origin House of Lords peer Lord Nazir Ahmed was among the key speakers for the group.
Scotland Yard, which had confirmed that an "appropriate and proportionate policing plan" will be in place for the demonstrations at Trafalgar Square, maintained a watchful eye over the proceedings, which remained largely peaceful with no face-offs being allowed to get out of control by vigilant police officers.
A UK government spokesperson had earlier allowed the rally to go ahead, saying that "in the UK people have the right to gather together and to demonstrate their views, provided that they do so within the law".
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had issued a statement expressing its disappointment at the stance.
"We have said that it seeks to propagate violence, secessionism and hatred and we expect them to take into account the larger perspective of the relationship when they take a decision on such matters," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said.
Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) said its rally is intended to raise awareness for a non-binding referendum in 2020, calling for the Sikh-majority state of Punjab to be granted independence.
Organisers believe a high turnout will put pressure on the United Nations to ask India to hold a plebiscite.
Rami Ranger, Chairman of the British Sikh Association, dismissed the rally as a move by a "handful of unelected and self appointed Sikhs" and that Sikhs at large remained "against disunity".