Thirty-six British MPs have written a letter to the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to raise their concern with India over the ongoing farm law protests, The Times of India reported on Friday.
The MPs, from various parties but mostly comprising Labour members, have also asked Raab to call an urgent meeting to discuss the “deteriorating” situation in Punjab and “its relationship with the Centre”. The legislators said that protests “are of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK” as many of them have family members and ancestral land in Punjab. The letter cites a Sikh Council UK survey that states 84% people from the community are personally concerned about the impact of the laws and 93% feel that human rights violations will increase.
The MPs have also asked for an update on any communication the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office had with the Indian government on the matter. This includes discussions with India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, who visited the UK, on November 4.
The signatories include Sikh Labour MP Tan Dhesi, Punjabi-origin Labour MPs Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Nadia Whittome, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Indian-origin Labour MP Valerie Vaz and Liberal Democrats MP Munira Wilson.
Warwick District Councillor Mini Mangat has also written a separate letter to the foreign secretary on the matter. “There are serious concerns that the new laws will cause widespread unemployment and crippling debts for smaller scale farmers,” she said in the letter. “There is growing fear there will be an increase… in suicide.”
Farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for the past 10 days against three farm laws passed by the Centre. Farmers and traders have alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
However, Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party UK President Kuldeep Shekhawat raised questions over the letter. “Indian farmers are free to spell out their grievances to their government, which is listening to the farmer bodies, so why a UK MP has to write to UK government and what role UK government will play in the internal matter of a sovereign country?” he said. “Farmers’ welfare is at the heart of the PM [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi government, which is committed to doubling the income of farmers.”
Trudeau reiterates stance on protests
Despite India’s apprehensions over the comments by Candian politicians on the farm legislation, the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his position on the matter on Friday, India Today reported.
“Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world,” he maintained. “We are pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue.”
The Canadian prime minister had on Tuesday spoken in support of the farmers’ protest, saying that his country will always defend the rights of peaceful protestors. Trudeau, the first world leader to comment publicly on the ongoing protests, had said that he believes in the process of dialogue. “We have reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns,” he had said. Canadian MP Tim S Uppal too had urged the Indian government to hear out the protestors.
On Friday, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Canadian High Commissioner, saying that the comments made by the politicians were “an unacceptable interference” in India’s internal affairs.
“These comments have encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of our High Commission and Consulates in Canada that raise issues of safety and security,” the statement said. “We expect the Canadian government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimise extremist activism.”