The British MPs have hit back after Narendra Modi’s government summoned the British High Commissioner to India to hold a debate on large-scale protests by Indian farmers to warn against the British Parliament.
Alex Ellis, the new British High Commissioner, was summoned by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Sharangala on Tuesday after India’s conclusion that MPs had launched a balanced debate that represented “total interference” in India’s internal affairs.
Eager to improve relations with Modi and secure the trade deal, the British government insisted that MPs were not discussing the merits of India’s land reform, saying that agrarian reform was a matter for India.
In the 90-minute debate, Labor MPs in particular criticized the reforms and urged Boris Johnson to suppress protests when Modi attends the G7 summit in June. The debate erupted after more than 100,000 people petitioned parliament about the protests.
Leila Moran, a Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman, criticized the Indian government’s summoning of Ellis and defended the right of the British Parliament to criticize India’s handling of the protests.
He said: “What we saw in Parliament was the power of democracy. What started with a request from a local Lab Dam councilor resulted in the loss of those responsible for standing up for human rights around the world. The responsible ministers have been held accountable. The Indian government must respect our democratic traditions and our right to examine our own government.
“Freedom of the media and the right to protest should be part of a strong relationship between our two countries. The families of many in the UK live in India and the recent protests have been accompanied by peaceful protests. He is rightly concerned about the treatment, and I hope that our High Commissioner to the United Kingdom will address these concerns during the meeting and defend our right to debate in Parliament.
The UK Parliament’s Petitions Committee will have to consider whether to discuss the 116,000 requests. The petition was filed by Liberal Democrat Councilor Gurch Singh, whose family comes from a farming background in Punjab.
Singh said he was asked to start his petition after his mother was found in tears after seeing the coverage of the protests on Indian news channels. He then spoke to relatives in India and members of his local community.
During Tuesday’s debate, former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said democracy in India was in jeopardy. He said: “They are protesting because they are usually small farmers on an area of less than five acres, many of whom are extremely poor. More than 22,000 people have been affected by the pressure in the last few years. Has committed suicide, it is as if they have put pressure on globalization, and they do not want it.
Finance Minister Pat McFadden said the peaceful behavior of the protesters “negates the notion that the people involved in the protests are in no way loyal to India, or that the reaction of the people fighting for their livelihood should suggest this.” They are somehow in external control, or question their motives, saying they are broadly anti-state.
When former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell visited India, the Prime Minister met with journalists to discuss the crackdown on his profession.
Birmingham Hall Green MP Tahir Ali said Modi and his party, the BJP, “responded to the protests with protests”. He said: “Modi’s political opponents in India are in danger of being arbitrarily arrested, and the civil liberties of all Indians are being eroded by an extremist, right-wing government.”
Ministers have sought to distance themselves from criticism of the reforms. “We acknowledge that the government has the power to enforce law and order if the protest is carried out illegally. We look to the Indian government to ensure that it is guaranteed in a strong Indian constitution,” he said. Maintain all freedoms and rights.
The Indian High Commission said: “When claims are made against India, regardless of friendship or love claims or domestic political compulsions, a record needs to be set.”
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