A small group of Sikh separatists held a protest in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington during which they tried to burn the tricolour on the Republic Day, a move slammed by the local Sikh community.
Organised by New York-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), the protesters raised "Khalistan Zindabaad" slogans and tried to burn the Indian flag in the presence of a battery of reporters from the local Pakistani media.
However, the SFJ supporters were outnumbered by Indian-Americans raising 'Vande Mataram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' slogans with Indian flags flying high in their hand.
Around 2.30 pm on Saturday, the members of the SFJ – in front of a group of Pakistani reporters and cameramen – tried to burn the Indian flag. They ended up burning a green flag that had 'S' written on it.
With passions running high between Indian-Americans and protesters, the local law enforcement officials had warned against any attempt to burn the Indian flag. In fact, they sought additional security personnel as the standoff continued. A group of mounted police were seen standing a few blocks away.
It was some tense moments for the local law enforcement officials as the two groups were standing face-to-face in a park just across the road from the Indian embassy in Washington. The standoff lasted for about two hours after which the protestors were forced by the local police to move across the road.
The local Sikh community slammed the SFJ for the protest.
"Such theatrical protests like flag burning are detrimental to the peace loving and harmony enhancing Sikh community everywhere," Jasse Singh and Kamaljit Singh Soni, the chairman and the president, respectively, of the Sikhs of America said in a joint statement.
"I am disturbed and concerned that a chosen few can build a narrative about the Sikh community in USA which will be viewed by the whole world," said Puneet Ahluwalia, an Indian American leader from Virginia.
"I will not stand for these forces to develop a misguided narrative with US leadership and public, besides polarising the already sensitivities towards minorities in India," he said.
In a statement, American Hindu Coalition (AHC) expressed deep dismay at the SFJ attempt to burn the Indian flag.
"The intent of flag burning is also an immense affront to the largest democracy on the earth and causing huge grief to the American Hindus," said Harsh Sethi, the AHC president who himself has a Sikh inheritance.
Ravi Batra, an Indian-American attorney from New York, said, "What SFJ - an American-born and accredited entity is seeking to do, however - is to burn the flag of another nation - and here is the critical part - as part of a campaign, allegedly, as an unregistered foreign agent engaging in terrorist activities in India."
Meanwhile, the twitter account of the SFJ has been suspended by the social media company.
"Account suspended," said the twitter page of '@SikhsforJustice' Saturday. Twitter did not gave any reason for it except for providing links to its rules. "Twitter suspends accounts which violates the Twitter Rules."
It is understood that twitter suspended the account of the SFJ for running hate campaign against India.