The United States on Thursday urged the Narendra Modi government to resolve its differences with the farmers over the recently passed agriculture reforms through dialogue, saying that peaceful protests are a “hallmark of any thriving democracy”.
The country also signalled concern about internet shutdowns imposed at the farmers’ protest sites to suppress demonstrations, citing law and order situation. “We recognise that unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy,” a US State Department spokesperson said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“In general, the United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment,” the spokesperson said. But the US “encourages that any differences between the parties be resolved through dialogue,” the official added. “We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same.”
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi for over two months, demanding the repeal of the three agricultural laws passed in September. Multiple rounds of talks between farm union leaders and the central government took place, but all of them failed to end the impasse.
Meanwhile, several other American lawmakers came out in support of the farmer protests in India.
Congresswoman Haley Stevens encouraged the Bharatiya Janata government and representatives of the protesting farmers to engage in productive discussions. “I am concerned by the reported actions against peaceful demonstrators protesting new agricultural reform laws in India,” she said in a statement. “I will continue to monitor this situation closely.”
Another Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, expressed solidarity with all the farmers protesting for their livelihood across India. “India must protect their basic democratic rights, allow for the free flow of information, reinstate internet access, and release all the journalists detained for covering the protests,” she wrote on Twitter.
Sikhs Political Action Committee Chairperson Gurinder Singh Khalsa said the “historic” farmers’ protest is turning out to be the “biggest-ever revolution” against the Indian government’s crony capitalism. This will be bigger than India’s freedom Revolution,” Khalsa said.
On Tuesday, a tweet by pop star Rihanna in support of the farmers dominated social media, leading to an outpouring of international condemnation of the Modi government’s handling of the crisis by celebrities and human rights activists alike.
The Ministry of External Affairs labelled the comments “neither accurate nor responsible”.
“We would like to emphasise that these protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity,” the ministry said in a statement without naming anyone. “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”
Shortly after, actors, celebrities and sports personalities in India began tweeting using two hashtags coined by the Ministry of External Affairs, urging unity and denouncing outsider voices as trying to divide the country.