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Plight of Indian Farmers’ Debated in British Parliament

TBL web desk

On Monday, the issue of protesting farmers was discussed in the UK parliament and the concerns were raised over the safety of the agitating farmers and the status of press freedom in India. 17 out of 18 participated MPs are from Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Scottish National Party. They urged the UK president John Borison to raise the issue directly with the Indian government during his visit to India scheduled later in this year. 90 minutes were decided by the House of Commons to discuss the issue. This debate took place after a petition signed by more than 1 lakh people. This petition was started by Gurcharan Singh, Liberal Democrat Councillor. 

Statements of various MPs during the discussion: 

Martin Day, MP Scottish National Party said that the debate will not focus on the farm laws passed by the Indian government as it is the internal matter of the country. He said, “We are debating for the safety of the protestors,” he was quoted as saying by the news channel. “Water cannons and tear gas and repeated clashes between police and farmers and interruption in internet connectivity have been matters of concern. Several farmers have reportedly committed suicide.”

Labor MP Nadia Whittom strongly criticized the BJP government in her speech in the parliament. She is half Punjabi half Anglo-Indian. Her statement reads, “I am proud to speak in solidarity with the millions resisting Modi’s regime. It is not protesting farmers, Rihanna or Greta Thunberg who is dividing India; it is the BJP.”

Tahir Ali, PoK origin labor MP recommended imposing sanctions against PM Modi and BJP figures. He said, “These sanctions should include banning Modi and other representatives of BJP from entering the UK and the seizure of any UK-based assets belonging to Modi and or BJP figures until these abuses stop. They continue to abuse the human and civil rights not only of farmers but of Kashmiri people. The UK should work alongside international organizations to protect human and civil rights in India and Kashmir.” 

Stephen Kinnock, labor shadow minister for Asia stated, “The UK government values its trade relationship with India, but it must be broader and deeper than just trade, it must also about join the promotion of democracy, human rights and upholding international law. We are deeply concerned about reports of live ammunition being used by police. Mr. Modi does need to recognize the world is watching.”

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, a Sikh Labour MP said, “The UK Tory government, in their desperation to get a trade deal, are failing spectacularly to stand up for the human rights of the protestors.”

Theresa Villiers, the conservative MP was the only one who supported the Indian government during the discussion. She stated, “Reform of farm subsidy and support has been under active discussion in India for 20 years, and international bodies such as the IMF have welcomed PM Modi’s attempt to take the action.”

The reaction of the UK government:

UK minister Nigel Adams was assigned by the government to respond to the debate. He said that UK’s cordial relationship with India will not refrain the country from discussing difficult matters. He further said that the government has already raised this issue and will continue to do so in the future as well while keeping in mind that the farm laws are a domestic matter of India. He said that the candid meetings will be held between John Borison and the Indian leaders on various matters during his visit to India.

The reaction of Advocacy for British Hindus and Indians (ABHI):

In reaction to the debate,a letterhas been fired off by the Advocacy of British Hindus and Indians to MP Catherine McKinnel, who holds the chair of the petitions committee. in their letter, they asked, “Why the British Government is being weaponized to discuss a foreign country’s issues and wasting taxpayer money.” They also asked that why a debate that is not directly related to the UK has been fast-tracked whereas a petition signed by 1.1 million people, calling to end child food poverty in the country has yet not been considered. The letter reads, “Has the UK parliamentary system been taken hostage by motivated interests pushing divisive, incendiary agendas?”

Bob Blackman, Conservative MP said after the discussion, “It seems there is deliberate attempt to stir up hostility between the UK and India in a completely unnecessary fashion.” It is to note that the constituency of Bob Blackman has the maximum number of Gujrati voters.

The reaction of the Indian Government over the debate: 

On Tuesday, the Indian government strongly condemned the debate and called it an “unwanted and tendentious discussion.” India in a response to the debate said that usually, it would not comment on the discussion held in the UK parliament that includes a small number of the MPs; however, a clarification on this issue was required. British envoy Alex Ellis was also summoned by foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Indian High Commission called this debate a “distinctly one-sided discussion.” It said, “We deeply regret that rather than a balanced debate, false assertions without substantiation or facts were made, casting aspersions on the largest functioning democracy in the world and its institutions.” It called the debate a “gross interference in the politics of another democratic country and said that the British MPs should “refrain from practicing vote bank politics.” 

The high commission dismissed the concerns raised in the debate about the freedom of the press in India. It stated, “Foreign media, including the British Media, are present in India and have witnessed the events under discussion first hand. So the question of lack of freedom of the media does not arise.”

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