The UK government on Saturday refused to be drawn into the farmers’ protest in India, hours after 36 British MPs asked foreign secretary Dominic Raab in a letter to raise the issue with the Indian government.
A foreign office spokesperson said, “The police handling of protests are a matter for the government of India.”
The 36 MPs from various parties – including some of Indian origin and others representing many constituents with links in Punjab – sought an urgent meeting with Raab and an update on representations the foreign office may have made on the issue, including during the recent visit to London of foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
UK foreign office officials said on condition of anonymity that Raab’s office had not yet received the letter, which has been coordinated by Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and circulated on social media.
Signatories to the letter include MPs from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra, Valerie Vaz, Nadia Whittome, Peter Bottomley, John McDonnell, Martin Docherty-Hughes and Alison Thewliss.
The letter says, “This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts other Indian states. Many British Sikhs and Punjabis have taken this matter up with their MPs, as they are directly affected, with family members and ancestral land in Punjab.”
Stating that several MPs had recently written to the Indian high commission about the impact of India’s three farm laws, the letter alleges that they fail “to protect farmers from exploitation and to ensure fair prices for their produce”.
British MPs have also been commenting on the farmers agitation on social media in recent days.
Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP from Birmingham Edgbaston and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Party for British Sikhs, reacted to images of protests from New Delhi, saying, “This is no way to treat citizens who are peacefully protesting over the controversial farmers’ bills in India.”
“Shocking scenes from Delhi. Farmers are peacefully protesting over controversial bills that will impact their livelihoods. Water cannons and tear gas, are being used to silence them,” she tweeted.
Dhesi posted images from the protests and said, “It takes a special kind of people to feed those ordered to beat and suppress them. I stand with farmers of #Punjab and other parts of #India, including our family and friends, who are peacefully protesting against the encroaching privatisation of #FarmersBill2020.”
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