Farmers eat lunch along a highway blocked by police with barricades to stop farmers from marching to New Delhi to protest against the central government’s recent agricultural reforms at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghazipur on December 6, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
BRITISH parliamentarians have extended their support to farmers in India who are protesting against new agricultural reforms in the country.
A group of 36 cross-party parliamentarians has written to UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab asking him to make representations with his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, about the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations.
The letter has been drafted by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and signed by other Indian-origin MPs including Labour’s Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Valerie Vaz as well as former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The letter urges the minister to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the “deteriorating situation in Punjab” and seeks an update on any communication the foreign, commonwealth and development office (FCDO) has had with the Indian government on the issue.
“This is a joint letter calling for representation to be made by yourself to your Indian counterpart about the impact on British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India,” reads the letter.
“This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts on 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.”
The latest intervention by British MPs follows Dhesi and other politicians taking to social media to express support for the farmers.
Lord Indarjit Singh, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, also raised the issue in the Upper House of Parliament last week.
The UK cabinet office minister responding in the House, Lord Nicholas True, refused to address a “broad denunciation” of any nation, adding: “Our values are democratic; they are very widely shared and practised across the world. We wish to sustain that.”
India has called the remarks by foreign leaders and politicians on protests by farmers as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted” as the matter pertained to the internal affairs of a democratic country.