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SOURCE: FREE PRESS JOURNAL

Over a 100 British MPs and Lords have signed a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to raise the issue of the ongoing farmer protests in India with Narendra Modi. This is not the first such entreaty. Earlier, a smaller group of lawmakers had written to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urging him to raise the topic with the Modi government.

“Great that over 100 MPs and Lords signed cross-party letter to the Prime Minister, given our serious concerns for the peaceful India farmers protest. Boris Johnson must raise it with Indian PM when they next liaise, expressing hopes of speedy resolution to the current deadlock,” tweeted Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi sharing the letter. He also shared a video message calling for the same.

The recent letter echoes its predecessor somewhat, stating that many signed constituents, especially those linked to Punjab and other parts of India, had been “horrified to see footage of water cannon, tear gas and brute force being used against hundreds of thousands of peacefully protesting farmers”. The letter noted that while Raab assured that he had raised the issue with the Indian Foreign Minister in the wake of the earlier cross-party letter, he had not done so with PM Modi.

The letter said that while Johnson’s Republic Day visit to India had been cancelled, it was believed that he would be meeting his Indian counterpart soon. “Given the urgency of this matter, could you please confirm that you will definitely convey to the Indian Prime Minister the heart-felt anxieties of our constituents, our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock and also for the democratic human right of citizens to peacefully protest?” the letter asked.

In December last year, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi had asked Boris Johnson the exact same question – would he convey their concerns to PM Modi? At the time, many had been bewildered as the UK PM proceeded to explain to Dhesi that while the UK had serious concerns about “what is happening between India and Pakistan”, these were “pre-eminently matters for those two counties to settle”. This too has found mention in the recent letter signed by over a 100 leaders that suggested that Johnson had “misunderstood the question”.

“The issue of course has nothing to do with Pakistan, but is regarding farmers from across India protesting and expressing their concerns of major corporates moving into the sector, as a result of new agriculture laws. Could you please respond to clarify your understanding of this important issue? Do you indeed agree that everyone has a fundamental right to engage in peaceful protest?” it asks.