By Arun Srivastava
A day after 36 cross party lawmakers led by the Labour Party’s Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi, expressed their solidarity with the agitating farmers in India, and wrote to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to raise the matter with the Indian government, thousands of Diaspora Indians have started hitting the streets and taking out rallies.
The MPs, in a letter to Raab, asked to hold talks with the Indian government and pressurise India to reject the recently enacted agriculture laws which “exploit” the farmers and those who depend on farming. The development comes as farmers have continued their protests for last 8 days at the Delhi-Haryana and Delhi-Uttar Pradesh borders.
In his letter, Dhesi, the Labour MP for Slough, said that last month several MPs wrote to the Indian High Commission in London about the impacts of the three new farm laws. The law makers are unanimous that the laws would immensely harm the farmers, particularly those who have small land holdings.
“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,” the letter said. In a tweet, Dhesi also said: “Many constituents, especially those emanating from the Punjab, have contacted MPs to express solidarity with the farmers opposing farmers Bill 2020 in India. Dozens of MPs duly deliberated and signed a cross-party letter, seeking justice for the peacefully protesting farmers.”
On the other hand, a rally proposed by the pro Khalistan Sikhs of UK on December 10 in support of the farmers stir in India, has worried London police as Indian High Commission has warned that some anti-India elements might try to take advantage of the situation. The supporters of the farmer agitation in UK, especially hailing from Punjab, have kept their distance from these anti-India elements and London Police has appealed to the sponsors of December 10 rally not to organize that in view of the pandemic. The Police have also asked the sponsors to organize the protests online.
However, the farmer’s agitation is getting international support and in many countries like USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, huge demonstrations have been held in different big cities and in many of these have been attended by the government law makers.
The UN chief Antonio Guterres has also extended support to the farmer protests in India. The spokesperson for UN chief said people have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities should let them do so. “As to the question of India, what I would say to you is what I’ve said to others when raising these issues is that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and authorities need to let them do so, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary General, said on Friday while responding to a question on the farmers’ protest in India.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau who has already expressed his support for farmers despite India’s strong reaction to his earlier remarks that Canada will defend rights of peaceful protestors sat on protest dharna along with the Indians. It may be recalled that India on Friday summoned Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel, and told him that the comments made by Prime Minister Trudeau and others in his cabinet on the farmers’ protest constituted an “unacceptable interference” in the country’s internal affairs and these actions, if continued, will have a “seriously damaging” impact on the bilateral ties.
When asked by a journalist on Friday about India’s strong reaction, Trudeau said in Ottawa, “Canada will always stand up for the right to peaceful protest anywhere around the world. We are pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue.”
On whether his comments would damage ties with India, he reiterated: “Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protests and human rights around the world.”
In London, the group of 36 cross-party parliamentarians who have written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have requested him to make representations to his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, regarding the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India.
“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 letter said.
“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,” it added.
The letter written by Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi is signed by other Indian-origin MPs including Labour’s Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Valerie Vaz as well as former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Lord Indarjit Singh, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, also raised the issue in the Upper House of Parliament earlier this week.
It urges the minister to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Punjab and seeks an update on any communication the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has had with the Indian government on the issue.
The protestors in UK cautioned the government of India against use of police force on the agitating farmers. Meanwhile thousands of British Sikhs took part in a second kisan rally in Birmingham on Sunday to show solidarity with farmers in Punjab who are agitating against newly enacted agri-marketing laws.
It was the second big rally of its kind in the UK following one held in Southall a week ago at which British Sikh organizer Deepa Singh was fined Rs 10 lakh for breaching Covid-19 restrictions.
Hundreds of tractors, cars, motorbikes, trucks and lorries took part in the four-hour rally on Sunday, which travelled in convoy slowly through Birmingham. The convoy often stopped, causing road blockades and disrupting traffic. The rally began at Guru Nanak Smethwick and then travelled via Birmingham city centre to Guru Har Rai Gurdwara, West Bromwich.
Passengers waved orange and black flags, the former symbolising the Khalsa and the latter symbolising ‘ros’ (‘protest’ in Punjabi.) They mainly chanted “Kisan mazdoor ekta zindabad (Long live unity between farmers and labourers)” and “Kisanbachao (Save farmers)”. (IPA Service)