HCI London calls upon UK MPs to consult it for “factual information” about India

Yesterday, a notice was issued by the High Commission of India (HCI), London, regarding the ongoing farmers’ protest in India. It began by stating that India as the “largest functioning democracy” values freedom of expression and that its democratic principles and governance are exemplary for the world.

“We believe that disruptions to the overall communal harmony – that may occur in a population at large and diverse as India’s must not be generalized to portray our whole nation, unique in its commitment to a centuries-old tradition of religious tolerance and harmonious coexistence of all faiths,” the notice read.

Referring to the debate that occurred in the UK Westminster India’s farmers’ protest, the notice stated that India, through its “robust democratic institutions” is already addressing grave domestic issues like the ongoing farmers’ protest. Thus, discussions and debates about India’s domestic affairs will only be useful if they are based on “facts, authentic information, and a thorough and accurate perception of issues.”

Read more: 100 British MPs send letter to PM Johnson to raise the issue of farmers protest with Modi

It called upon the Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to consult with the High Commission to get “up-to-date, authentic and factual information about India.”

“We have made available fact sheets and briefs for the consideration of the esteemed Members of Parliament interested in specific themes to enable them to disregard any misinformation or incomplete or false portrayal of the ground realities that may be reaching them and, instead, rely on verifiable data to have a more comprehensive appreciation of India,” the notice further stated.

Last week, MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who belongs to the Labour Party, had sent Prime Minister Boris Johnson a letter regarding the ongoing farmers’ protests in India and asked him to raise this matter with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi when they next meet. The letter is signed by over 100 MPs and Lords.

Read more: Farmers Protest in India: The Beginning of a ‘Sikh Spring’

The letter urges Boris Johnson to emphasize the need for a “speedy resolution of the current deadlock and the democratic human right of citizens to peacefully protest.” Constituents of these MPs mainly belong to the Indian diaspora, many coming from farming backgrounds.

“Immensely grateful to the 100 plus MPs and Lords who’ve signed a cross-party letter to the Prime Minister, given huge concerns for the peaceful Indian farmers’ protest. Boris Johnson must raise with the Indian PM when they liaise, expressing hopes of a speedy resolution to the current deadlock,” Dhesi told IANS in a message.

In September 2020, the Modi government passed three farm laws aiming to deregulate the agriculture sector in India, allowing farmers to get in contact with private buyers and companies to sell their produce. However, farmers are concerned that they may not have the skills to bargain with the large companies to get the price they usually get from the state. They fear they would be exploited at the hands of large corporations for profits, which they cannot afford since their livelihood depends on the agriculture sector.

Read more: Farmers block rails and roads in India to protest new bills

The Modi government has stated that the laws do not take away the minimum support price (MSP) set by the state, but no such thing has been written in the laws, which has the farmers greatly concerned. As a result, in late November 2020, thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana set out to protest in New Delhi.

Despite the eight rounds of talks conducted between the farmers and the Indian government, no progress could be made regarding the farm laws. The farmers demand the government to revoke the three laws, but the government has refused.

The protestors came under multiple rounds of police shelling of tear gas shells as they reached the Singhu border in November, water cannons were deployed as well.

Read more: Op-ed: Will Indian government be able to scuttle the farmers’ protest?