The United Nations on Friday backed the agitation started by tens of thousands of Indian farmers against the government’s agriculture laws, saying they have a right to protest peacefully and the authorities must allow them to do so, PTI reported.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric made the comments in response to a question on the farmers’ protest.

Dujarric said that people have the right to stage peaceful protests. “As to the question of India, what I would say to you is what I’ve said to others when raising these issues is that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and authorities need to let them do so,” he said.

The farmers’ protest in India has received support from other countries too. Thirty-six British MPs on Friday wrote a letter to the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to express concern about the protests to India. They said the new new farm law were a “death warrant” for Punjab, which is also known as India’s bread basket, according to The Times of India.

The MPs, mostly comprising Labour party members, also requested the foreign secretary to call an urgent meeting to discuss the “deteriorating” situation in Punjab. The MPs said that protests “are of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK” as many of them have family members and ancestral land in Punjab.

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On the same day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again expressed solidarity with Indian farmers even as India said that his comments were “an unacceptable interference” in its internal affairs. The Ministry of External Affairs also summoned the Canadian High Commissioner on Friday over Trudeau’s remarks.

Trudeau reiterated that Canada will always back peaceful protests anywhere in the world. “We are pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue,” he said, referring to the talks between the farmers and the government.

Meanwhile, leaders of farmers unions on Saturday met the Centre for the fifth time to discuss their demands. Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and Narendra Singh Tomar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence ahead of the talks.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for the tenth consecutive day to reverse the agricultural legislation’s. The farmers agitation has been met with violent action from police, who have attempted to turn them back by using water cannons and tear gas. The authorities had taken extraordinary measures to set up blockades on highways – parking buses, trucks and other large vehicles. At some places, they even dug up trenches to obstruct farmers, many of whom camped on highways for the night in chilling temperatures.

What are the farm laws?

The Parliament had passed three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

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.

The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.