British Parliament may consider debate on Indian farmers’ protests

UK Parliament's Petitions Committee may hold debate at Westminster Hall in the House of Commons on the farmers protests and press freedom in India


Illustrating that farmers rights are human rights, and the concerns are global in nature, United Kingdom’s Labour Party MP Claudia Webbe has said that the massive farmers protest underway in India, may be discussed in the UK parliament soon. An online petition titled “Urge the Indian government to ensure safety of protestors & press freedom” seeking a debate, has gathered massive response and was signed more than over 106,000 times (and counting) qualifying it for a Parliamentary debate.  

Webbe also urged her government to “immediately cease sale of weapons including water cannons, tear gas & baton charges, which could be used against Farmers in India” 

The online petition states, “The government must make a public statement of the #kissanprotests & press freedoms. India is the world’s largest democracy & democratic engagement and freedom of the press are fundamental rights and a positive step towards creating an India that works for all,” reported The Outlook and others. The qualification comment as seen states, “Parliament will consider this for a debate. Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate. Waiting for less than a day for a debate date. The government responds to all petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures.”

According to news reports the petition was created by one Gurcharan Singh on December 17, 2020, and now it is being said that the UK parliament will take it up for a debate in Parliament. Webbe shared the screenshot in her post on Twitter. 

As reported by Rediff, the British Parliament’s Petitions Committee will consider a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons complex on the farmers’ protests and press freedom in India. However the news report added that “while the list of signatories for the e-petition also reflects a signature of Boris Johnson, in his capacity as a west London Conservative Party member of Parliament, Downing Street on Wednesday categorically denied that the United Kingdom Prime Minister had signed the petition.”

There has been a surge of international support for the farmers who have been on protest seeking the repeal of three farm laws, in the past few days. The United States has made an official comment on the nationwide farmers’ movement in India. Responding to a question by India Today at a State Department press briefing, a spokesperson said, “We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy, and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same,” adding, “We encourage that any differences between the parties be resolved through dialogue.” On the subject of internet shutdown in areas near the protest sites on Delhi’s borders, NDTV quoted the spokesperson as saying, “We recognise that unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy.” This comes shortly after a series of social media posts by international celebrities such as singer Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and other influencers put the farmers’ protests under the global spotlight. 

On Wednesday, India’s Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), had issued a statement soon after the international cultural, political, and social icons expressed solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ protests. The MEA stated that the “Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”

Soon after the MEA statement went viral, scores of Union Ministers, Indian actors, and sports celebrities shared the official hashtags in support of the government and its responses to the ongoing farmers protests.

In London, reported Rediff, a UK government spokesperson said, “Media freedom is vital for the protection of human rights and journalists all around the world must be free to do their job and to hold authorities to account without fear of arrest or violence. Free press plays a crucial role in our democracies and the government are putting their full weight behind this including through our membership of the Media Freedom Coalition.”

According to the news report the signatories of the petition reflect names of cross-party parliamentarians including Indian-origin Opposition Labour Party MPs Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Preet Kaur Gill, who have been particularly vocal over the issue on social media and most recently raised concerns over the blockage of ‘water, electricity and internet’ to protesting crowds. It added that the Indian Journalists’ Association (IJA) in the UK joined other international media organisations to express concern over the arrest of journalists covering the farmers’ protests and urged the Indian government to ensure the safety of journalists in the country. ‘The freedom of press is an important pillar of any democracy and authorities must ensure that journalists are able to do their jobs — reporting accurately and without bias — however challenging the circumstances,’ it stated.


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