As many as 36 British cross-party parliamentarians have written a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab requesting for the UK’s intervention in the ongoing farmers’ protest in India. Some of the notable signatories of the two-page letter include British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour MPs Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Valerie Vaz as well as former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Titled as ‘Development in the Punjab on farmer rights in India and the wider political ramifications,’ the letter has urged Raab to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the rapidly ‘deteriorating situation in Punjab,’ They also sought an update on any communication that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has had with the Indian government on the issue.
Taking to Twitter Dhesi wrote, “Farmers from the Punjab and across India are peacefully protesting against #FarmersBill2020. Following our October meet, further discussions and given strong sense of injustice felt by many constituents, cross-party letter from British MPs has been sent to the Foreign Secretary.”
Malhotra, for her part, wrote, “I have signed this important letter with @TanDhesi and cross party colleagues calling for an urgent meeting and update from the British Foreign Secretary on this issue. The images of police violence towards peaceful protest are unacceptable in a modern democracy. #FarmersBill2020.”
Their letter read, “This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to the 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 the Punjab. Being famous as “India’s bread-basket”, many Punjabis rely on farming for their existence. About three-quarters of the state’s 30 million-strong population is involved in agriculture. Therefore, these new laws present the Punjabis with a huge problem, with some describing it as a “death warrant”.”
India has already reacted angrily at similar concern shown by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by summoning the Candian High Commissioner in Delhi. Unfazed by India’s displeasure, Trudeau on Friday had repeated his support for the protesting farmers.
The letter by the British MPs said that the ‘Punjabi farming community is widely recognised as the backbone of the state’s economic structure and the farmers’ concerns are a powerful factor in national and state politics.’ “It’s therefore not surprising that it has resulted in a considerable fallout between the Centre and elected politicians from virtually all political parties in the Punjab. There have been resignations and amendment bills have been passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (Assembly). The state’s Chief Minister has sought time from the President, pursuant to the decisions taken in the Vidhan Sabha Session,” it added.
Meanwhile, farmers across India have called for Bharat Bandh on 8 December, threatening to occupy every toll booth across the country and blocking all highways leading to Delhi.