The Indian High Commission in the United Kingdom on Tuesday wrote an open letter to British MP Claudia Webbe, hours after she tweeted in support of the farmers’ protest in India. The letter said that the MP from Leicester East may convey any concern related to the community that she represented to the High Commission.
Webbe had on February 13 tweeted in support of the protesting farmers in India. Two days later, she expressed concern about the arrest of activists Disha Ravi and Nodeep Kaur. On February 3, Webbe had tweeted an online petition calling for a debate in the UK Parliament on the farmers protest in India.
“Disha Ravi is 21; a student and climate activist,” she tweeted on Monday. “Nodeep Kaur is 24; a labourer & Union activist. Both women were targeted, arrested and imprisoned for peacefully supporting the farmers protest. This suppression is driven by authoritarianism and free market capitalism. Don’t Be Silent.”
Ravi was arrested on Saturday for sharing and editing a document intended to help the farmers’ protest against the new agricultural laws. The “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – was first tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in support of India’s protesting farmers on February 4. The Delhi Police have refuted allegations on lapses in Ravi’s arrest.
Kaur has been in police custody for over a month. She has been granted bail in two of the three cases lodged against her. Her family has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the police. However, the police have denied the charges.
In the open letter, posted on Tuesday, the High Commission said that the farmers in the protest rallies have been treated with “utmost respect and restraint” by the government and security forces.
“The Farm Acts were duly discussed and debated in the Parliament of India and their benefits have started reaching more than 100 million small farmers instantly,” it claimed. “Since the enactment of these reforms, discussions have been held with farmers and other stakeholders on their efficient implementation.”
The High Commission also said that the government has held 11 rounds of talks with the agitating farmers and suggested numerous ways to address their “apprehensions”, including postponing or amending the legislations. It said that the farmers summarily rejected these options.
The protests are being led by a “small section of the Indian farming community”, the High Commission said in its letter. It also added that India’s new farm laws were based on the inputs from experts and recommendations by committees that have studied specific challenges in the agriculture sector for the past 20 years.
The High Commission also said the Indian government was aware of the efforts of the “vested interests abroad to fuel the protests through misinformation and incendiary assertions” that were not helpful in progressing the dialogue with the farmers.
The commission said Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned that the benefit of the laws had already begun for more than 10 crore farmers, during a joint sitting of the Parliament on January 29. The High Commission said that Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had also conveyed to the farmers that the Centre will make amendments to the laws, but the farmers rejected the offer.
The High Commission also mentioned the violence on January 26 during a tractor rally organised by the protesting farmers. It alleged that the protestors allowed “militant elements” to take centre stage and make provocative speeches that led to the vandalism on January 26.
Earlier this month, pop icon Rihanna had tweeted in support of the farmers protesting against the farm laws in India. Rihanna’s tweet drew global attention to the protests as prominent Western personalities echoed her support for the farmers’ movement. Following the international criticism, the Ministry of External Affairs had issued a statement calling the tweets a “sensationalist” attempt by “vested groups” to intervene in India’s internal matters.
Many British MPs have expressed concern about the farmers’ protest in India. On February 11, British Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi had asked the UK’s Parliament to hold a debate on farm laws, saying that an online petition in this regard has gained over 1 lakh signatures.
In December, 36 British MPs wrote to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to raise their concerns with India on the farm law protests. The legislators had said that protests “are of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK” as many of them have family members and ancestral land in Punjab.
On Republic Day as farmers took out a tractor rally in India, their counterparts in the UK had posted images on social media to express their solidarity with them.