Seven lawmakers in the United States, including Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take up the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi with his Indian counterpart, reported PTI on Friday.
In a letter dated December 23, the American lawmakers told Pompeo that although the agitation is of particular concern to Sikh-Americans linked to Punjab, it also heavily impacted other Indian-Americans from various Indian states.
“Many Indian Americans are directly affected as they have family members and ancestral land in Punjab and are concerned for the well-being of their families in India,” the letter added. “In view of this serious situation, we urge you to contact your Indian counterpart to reinforce the United States’ commitment to the freedom of political speech abroad.”
The lawmakers said that given that the US, as a nation, is familiar with political protests, it could offer counsel to India “during their current period of social disturbance”. “As national legislators, we respect the right of the government of India to determine national policy, in compliance with existing law,” they wrote. But, “we also acknowledge the rights of those in India and abroad who are currently protesting peacefully against agricultural laws that many Indian farmers see as an attack on their economic security”.
In addition to Jayapal, the letter has been signed by Congressmen Donald Norcross, Brendan F Boyle, Brian Fitzpatrick, Mary Gay Scanlon, Debbie Dingell and David Trone.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders for 30 days now, blocking highways in giant demonstrations against the new legislations that they say will pave the way for corporate exploitation. They have hunkered down with supplies that can last months and have said they will not leave till the government abolishes the “black laws”.
The government, which maintains that the new policies provide long-due reforms in the agricultural sector, has tried to placate the angry farmers by offering to make amendments to the laws, but several rounds of talks have failed.
Over the past few weeks, more than a dozen US lawmakers have expressed concern about the farmers. Earlier this month, Congressman and Co-Chair of the American Sikh Caucus, John Garamendi, along with Congressman Jim Costa and Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee – also members of the American Sikh Caucus – sent a letter to Indian Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, expressing solidarity with the protestors and defending their right to peaceful protest.
Democrat lawmaker David Trone on Tuesday urged the Indian government to provide safety to the farmers and welcomed the proposal made by India’s Supreme Court to set up a mediation panel.
In Britain too, lawmakers have expressed their solidarity to the agitation. On December 5, thirty-six British MPs wrote to the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to raise their concern with India over the protests. The MPs, from various parties but mostly comprising Labour members, had also asked Raab to call an urgent meeting to discuss the “deteriorating” situation in Punjab and “its relationship with the Centre”.
On December 1, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had also spoken in support of the farmers, saying that his country will always defend the rights of peaceful protestors.
India, however, took strong exception to remarks by international leaders and politicians. It had responded to Trudeau’s comments, saying the Canadian leader’s comments were “unwarranted and ill-informed”, especially when pertaining to the “internal affairs of a democratic country”.