The debate was a response to a petition launched by the Liberal Democrat leader of Maidenhead,The UK government responded by saying: “Concerns will be raised with India when the two prime ministers meet in person.”
A debate held Monday in the British Parliament on “the safety of farmers” and “freedom of the press” in India drew a strong reaction from the Indian high commission in London.
“We deeply regret that instead of a balanced debate, false claims – without justification or facts – have been made, casting criticism on the world’s largest functioning democracy and its istitutions,” the High Commission said in a statement.
“The foreign media, including the British media, are present in India and have witnessed the events under discussion. The question of the lack of media freedom in India does not arise,” he continues.
On Monday, the British parliament set aside 90 minutes to debate “farmer safety” and “press freedom” in India. Concerns have been raised by several Labor, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party MPs about the Indian government’s response to the protests.
The debate was a response to a petition launched by Maidenhead Liberal Democrat leader Gurch Singh of Indian descent. The petition received the signatures of more than a lakh of UK residents in a matter of weeks.
Martin Day, from the Scottish National Party, opened the debate with these remarks: “The UK government has already said that agricultural reforms are up to the Indian government to decide. So we are not debating reforms now. We are debating for the safety of the people. Protesters. Water cannons, tear gas and repeated clashes between police and farmers and the interruption of the Internet connection are matters of concern. Several farmers have reportedly committed suicide. “
Responding to several opposition MPs raising concerns about the safety of farmers and journalists in India, UK Minister of State for Asia Nigel Adams said that “Britain’s close ties to India does not prevent the nation from raising concerns.
Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The unprecedented protests should give some thought to why so many are showing up. The arrests of journalists are a matter of grave concern.”
However, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers shared her support for the Indian government’s response. “We also get complaints about police here in the UK when there are mass protests. It doesn’t mean the UK is against democracy.” she said.
In its statement, the Indian High Commission stressed: “The Indian High Commission would normally refrain from commenting on an internal discussion involving a small group of honorable parliamentarians in a limited quorum. their demands for friendship and love for India or their national political compulsions, it is necessary to set the record straight. “
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to be in India in January to attend the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. This trip had to be postponed due to the increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the UK, particularly of the new, rapidly spreading UK variant.
The trip is seen as a strong sign of the UK’s hope to further strengthen its ties with India after Brexit. A proposed trade deal is to be discussed by the British Prime Minister among others.
Farmer protests against three new farm laws began near Delhi’s borders in November. Last month, the government gave an unprecedented response after pop star Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and US and UK lawmakers weighed in on the protests.
“We would like to stress that these protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethics and politics, and the efforts of the government and concerned farmer groups to break the deadlock,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the press release.