LONDON (Reuters) – Thousands of people protested and blocked traffic in central London on Sunday over Indian agricultural reforms that have triggered mass demonstrations in India, and police made 13 arrests over breaches of COVID regulations.
A crowd of demonstrators converged on the Indian embassy, located on Aldwych, a major artery in the centre of the British capital, and groups marched around the Trafalgar Square area.
Tens of thousands of farmers have protested in India against three laws the government says are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and give growers more options to sell their produce.
Farmers fear the legislation, passed in September, will eventually dismantle India’s regulated markets and stop the government from buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
Britain is home to a large Indian diaspora and many Britons who trace their family roots to India are strongly engaged with news from the country.
There was little social distancing in evidence at the London protests and few participants were wearing face masks, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.
The Metropolitan Police said it had arrested 13 people for breaching restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, and that four of those people were later released after being issued with fines.
Police also confiscated fireworks from teenagers who were seen setting them off towards a crowd. There were no reports of injuries, and traffic was flowing freely after the crowds dispersed.
“The capital remains in the midst of a pandemic. It is vital that we all play our part in the fight against COVID-19,” said police Commander Paul Brogden in a statement.