Sikh protestors demanding a Sikh state within India attacked and damaged the Consulate General of India in San Francisco on Sunday following similar protests in London and Canberra, Australia. Since India first became a country in 1947 following independence from Great Britain, those who adhere to the Sikh religion have demanded a homeland of their own in India, known as Khalistan. In the 70’s and 80’s, the movement grew more violent, culminating in two Sikhs assassinating Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.
Since then, strife between the Indian government and the Sikhs have continued, with many Sikhs who have moved overseas continuing to push for Khalistan, including some who settled in the U.S. Many of them moved to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, drawn in by numerous tech booms throughout the years as well as a strong Indian community existing in the areas.
With tensions flaring up again due to a large manhunt in India in trying to find a separatist Sikh leader, protesters demonstrated in favor of Khalistan in many cities with large Sikh populations around the world. The Indian consulate in London was attacked earlier on Sunday, with a large protest occurring in the Australian capitol of Canberra as well. With the Indian government taking more desperate steps, such as shutting down the internet for 27 million in Sikh heavy areas of India, the greater outrage carried over to protests in San Francisco on Sunday.
According to the San Francisco police, a large swell of protesters broke past police barriers onto the grounds of the consulate on Sunday. There, they erected two Khalistani flags and proceeded to hit the Consulate building with makeshift weapons while also vandalizing the property. Once officials got control back, the Consulate was left covered with graffiti and broken windows, with Consulate workers taking down the separatist flags.
After London, now San Francisco – Indian consulate in San Francisco is attacked by Khalistan supporters. For Modi’s security, Rs 584 crores spent every year, but India’s diplomatic missions are left unsecured. https://t.co/scJ9rKcazW
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) March 20, 2023
Both the US government and the Indian government condemned the attacks on Monday, noting that attacking any diplomatic facility in the U.S. is a major crime.
“That vandalism, it’s just absolutely unacceptable,” said White House National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby. “The State Department’s diplomatic security service is working with local authorities. I can’t speak for the San Francisco police, but I can say that the diplomatic security service is working with local authorities to properly investigate and obviously, the State Department is going to be working from an infrastructure perspective to repair the damage, but it’s unacceptable.”
The Department of State also noted on Monday that “The US condemns the attack on Sunday against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. Violence against diplomatic facilities within the US is a punishable crime. It is our priority to defend the security and safety of these facilities and the diplomats who work within them.”
While police are currently investigating, protesters returned on Monday but were held behind the barriers by police, with many more being present following the Sunday incident.
Many members of the Indian community remain torn on the current situation in India, but with most condemning what happened on Sunday.
“To most of us, problems in India were left as soon as we immigrated,” explained James Singth, a second-Generation Sikh in California who assists with green card paperwork for those coming from India and Bangladesh to the Globe on Monday. “My parents are a little more sensitive to it and have been more opinionated about it. But, just like any second generation family in the US, we’re invested with America now. I speak Punjabi for work, but most of my friends who also had parents come from India don’t. I’m friends with an Irish-American who said the same thing about their grandparents. They had cared about the IRA and Northern Ireland and all that, but by the time it all got to America with their kids growing up here, they could have cared less about that.”
“What we saw yesterday was understandable outrage but projected in a bad way. You just don’t attack a Consulate or Embassy like that. Most Sikhs are actually pretty chill, especially those that were born and raised here. Yesterday were those that came recently and were still mad at things that happened back home. It’s good to remember where family came from. Germans here still celebrate Oktoberfest and Mexicans still celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It’s part of who we are. But doing something like attacking the Consulate? Nearly all of us see that as extreme and something that shouldn’t have happened.”