Days after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau voiced concerns at the ongoing farmer protests against the new farm laws in India, 36 British MPs from across political parties, some of Indian origin, and including former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have written to United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking him to raise the issue with India and discuss the deteriorating situation in the Punjab and its relationship with the Centre. The letter said the Indian government has failed to protect farmers from exploitation and unable to ensure fair prices for their produce.
The signatories include Punjabi-origin Labour MPs Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra, Sikh Labour MP Tan Dhesi, and Nadia Whittome, Indian-origin Labour MP Valerie Vaz, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrats MP Munira Wilson. The letter states that many Sikhs in the UK have family members and ancestral land in Punjab hence the protest is of particular concern to them.
The letter cites a Sikh Council UK survey that states 84% people from the community are personally concerned about the impact of the laws and 93% feel that human rights violations will increase. The letter seeks an urgent meeting with India on the issue and an update on the representations the foreign office may have made on the issue, including the recent London visit by Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party UK President Kuldeep Shekhawat questioned the locus of those who had signed the letter. “Indian farmers are free to spell out their grievances to their government, which is listening to the farmer bodies, so why a UK MP has to write to UK government and what role UK government will play in the internal matter of a sovereign country?” he said. “Farmers’ welfare is at the heart of the PM (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) government, which is committed to doubling the income of farmers.”
On Friday, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Canadian High Commissioner, saying that the comments made by its PM Justin Trudeau were “an unacceptable interference” in India’s internal affairs.