Over 100 members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom have written to the country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to take up the farmers’ protests against India’s new agriculture laws with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The letter dated January 5, was released by UK’s Labour Party MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi on Twitter on Friday. It said that people in the UK, especially with links to Punjab or India, were “horrified to see footage of water cannon, tear gas and brute force” against peacefully protesting farmers.
Noting that Johnson’s earlier scheduled visit to India on Republic Day on January 26 has now been cancelled, the letter urged him to raise the matter with Modi when the two prime ministers meet next.
“Given the urgency of this matter, could you please confirm that you will definitely convey to the Indian Prime Minister the heart-felt anxieties of our constituents, our hopes for a speedy resolution, and also for the democratic human right of citizens to peacefully protest?” said the letter
The letter states that a similar appeal was earlier made to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking him to raise the matter during his recent meeting with India’s Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, but he failed to do so.
It further pointed out that Dhesi raised a question on the matter in the British Parliament on December 9, but Johnson misunderstood the query and instead made a reference to Pakistan, saying that the issue was for those two governments to settle. “The issue of course has nothing to do with Pakistan, but is regarding farmers from across India protesting and expressing their concerns of major corporates moving into the sector, as a result of new agriculture laws,” the letter said.
Farm law protests
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for over 40 days against the laws now, withstanding temperatures dropping to two to three degrees Celsius.
The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.
The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.
After eight rounds of talks between the Centre and farmers’ unions, the two sides have reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters of contention. However, the deadlock continues on the two main demands of farmers – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system. The next round of talks between the two sides is scheduled to be held on January 15.