London: The bilateral issue between India and Pakistan has been so mindlessly drilled into international politics that Boris even used it in response to question on farmer protest. This was stated on Twitter by a prominent Kashmiri human rights advocate Mirza Saaib Beg here on Wednesday. Mirza was referring to British PM Boris as he is being criticised over his response to a question regarding the ongoing farmers’ protest in India.
During the Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK Parliament, Britain’s first turban-wearing Sikh MP, Tanmanjeet Sindh Dhesi, had asked Johnson to show solidarity with the tens of thousands of farmers in India protesting against the Narendra Modi government’s anti-farmer bills.
The Labour MP said many of his constituents, especially those hailing from Punjab and other parts of India, had been horrified to see footage of water cannons, tear gas, and brute force being used against peacefully protesting farmers.
“It was heart-warming to see farmers feeding the forces who had been ordered to beat or suppress them. What indomitable spirit. It takes a special kind of people to do that,” he commented.
The Indian government’s offer to amend three laws in a set of new agricultural rules that has led to weeks of protests was rejected by farmers on Wednesday, who vowed to intensify demonstrations.
The farmers in India are seeking the withdrawal of the laws which they say would harm their economic interests while helping big food retailers. Farmers have been demonstrating since late last month over reforms enacted in September that loosened rules around the sale, pricing and storage of farm produce, that had protected farmers from an unfettered free market for decades.
“The farmers have rejected the government’s proposals,” Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, told reporters after the meeting of over 30 farmers’ unions. Expressing their anger towards some large domestic corporations and retailers, including Reliance Industries and Adani Enterprises, farmer leaders said they would boycott the products and services of these companies. The majority of farmers believes the news laws could pave the way for some of India’s leading corporations to enter the Indian agriculture trade.
Unhappy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s liberalisation, farmers have set up protest camps and blocked roads surrounding the capital New Delhi, and on Tuesday mounted a nationwide strike. Farmer leaders want the government to retain mandatory government purchases, and said buyers at private markets should pay the same tax as at state-run markets.
The protests, led by influential farming groups from the grain-producing states of Haryana and Punjab, pose a major challenge to Modi as he seeks to reform the vast agriculture sector, which makes up nearly 15% of India’s $2.9 trillion economy and employs around half of its 1.3 billion people.
Opposition parties criticised the reforms, saying they would benefit big business and be disastrous for the rural economy, and met President Ram Nath Kovind, the country’s ceremonial head of state, urging him to ask the government to accept farmers’ demands.
Social media has fanned sympathy for the farmers’ cause among the Indian diaspora abroad. During recent days, thousands of people have protested in support of the farmers outside the Indian embassy in central London.