London: The Indian High Commission has taken a strong note of what it called a ‘distinctly one-sided’ discussion among a group of UK lawmakers in a Westminster Committee Room in response to an e-petition campaign on the Indian farmers’ ongoing protest against Centre’s three farm laws.
“High Commission of India has been, over a period of time, taking care to inform all concerned about the issues raised in the petition. 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,’’ it said in a press release.
“Al 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 said in the press release.
“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 statement added.
The Indian High Commission further said that it would normally refrain from commenting on an internal discussion involving a small group of UK 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,’’ it added.
The debate was held in response to an e-petition that had crossed the 100,000-signature threshold, required for it to be approved by the House of Commons Petitions Committee.
The statement followed a group of around dozen cross-party British MPs debating issues around the alleged ‘use of force’ against protesters opposed to agricultural reforms in India and journalists being targeted while covering the protests.
As the British government minister deputed to respond to the debate, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Nigel Adams said the close UK-India relationship did not hinder the UK in any way from raising difficult issues with India, even as he reiterated the government line that agricultural reforms are a “domestic matter” for India.
Virendra Sharma, the Opposition Labour MP for Ealing Southall in west London with a large Punjabi diaspora, sought to counsel both the Indian government and agitating farmers to reach an agreement over the issue.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points, including Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, since November 28, demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee on the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops.
The government has denied allegations that it was trying to put an end to the MSP and the mandi system.