“The High Commission of India would normally refrain from commenting on an internal discussion involving a small group of Honourable Parliamentarians in a limited quorum. However, when aspersions are cast on India by anyone, irrespective of their claims of friendship and love for India or domestic political compulsions, there is a need to set the record straight.” A special report by Asian Lite Newsdesk
Indian High Commission in London on Tuesday criticised Britain for a debate held in the Parliament to on “safety of farmers” and “press freedom” in India.
“We deeply regret that rather than a balanced debate, false assertions — without substantiation or facts — were made, casting aspersions on the largest functioning democracy in the world and its institutions. Foreign media, including the British media, are present in India and have witnessed the events under discussion first-hand. The question of lack of freedom of the media in India does not arise,” the High Commission said in a statement.
On Monday, the British parliament debated for 90 minutes the issue of “safety of farmers” amidst several Labour Party MPs, Liberal democrats and the Scottish National Party raising concerns over the Indian government’s reaction to the protests.
The UK government responded saying, “The concerns will be raised with India when both Prime Ministers meet in person.”
The debate was a response to a petition initiated by Maidenhead Liberal Democrat leader Gurch Singh of Indian origin. The petition received signatures from over a lakh Britishers within weeks.
“All issues raised are the remit of well-established independent democratic institutions in India for addressing the same. It is also a matter of concern that, once again, comments were made to mislead the British Indian community, raising doubts about treatment of minorities in India, alleged human rights violations in ‘Kashmir’ etc,” the Indian High Commission in London said.
Robert John Blackman, Conservative Party MP from Harrow East, in a video message said the farming laws are an issue for the Central and state governments in India to debate and decide. “It is not for the United Kingdom to make comment on, discuss or instruct the Indian government and people of India on what they should do. Many MPs today have spoken in complete ignorance of what is actually going on. The new farming laws are a result of 20 years of negotiations covering many different Indian governments. It is clear that the new farm laws will benefit small farmers and those on low farm incomes,” Blackman said.
Meanwhile, opening the debate, Scottish National Party’s Martin Day said, “The UK government has already stated that the farm reforms are a matter for the Indian government’s decision. So we are not debating the reforms now. We are debating for the safety of the protesters. Water canons and tear gas and repeated clashes between police and farmers and interruption in internet connectivity have been matters of concern. Several farmers have reportedly committed suicide.”
In a response to several opposition MPs raising concerns over safety of farmers and journalists in India, UK Minister of State for Asia Nigel Adams said Britain’s “close ties with India doesn’t hinder the nation from raising concerns”.
Participating in the debate, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “The unprecedented protests should make one think about why so many are turning up. The arrests of journalists is a matter of serious concern.”
Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, however, shared support for the Indian government’s response. “We receive complaints against policemen here in the UK too when there are mass protests. That doesn’t mean the UK is against democracy.” she said.
In its statement, the Indian High Commission stressed: “The High Commission of India would normally refrain from commenting on an internal discussion involving a small group of Honourable Parliamentarians in a limited quorum. However, when aspersions are cast on India by anyone, irrespective of their claims of friendship and love for India or domestic political compulsions, there is a need to set the record straight.”
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