NARENDRA Modi is facing one of the biggest political tests of his premiership as farmers’ protests continue to rage in India, drawing support worldwide.
What started as anger over agricultural reform legislation has now turned into round-the-clock sit-ins in New Delhi, piling pressure on the BJP government.
However, shocking footage of water cannons and tear gas being used on peaceful marchers emerged late last month, igniting widespread condemnation of the self-labelled democracy.
Preet Kaur Gill MP told Redaction Politics: “The use of water cannons and tear gas against peaceful protestors is unacceptable.
“Enabling individuals to publicly express their views through peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right.
“The UK must stand up for democratic freedoms and work with our partners to protect and champion them.”
Farmers’ unions, who have protested peacefully for the most part, have insisted on the repeal of three ‘Farm Laws’ passed in September.
While Modi’s government has insisted the laws will free up the farmers by loosening the market, many farmers fear the move will drastically reduce their income by stopping the government buying rice and wheat and guaranteed prices.
Modi has dismissed the demonstrations and politically motivated by his opponents. However, some analysts have mused that the Indian Prime Minister is appearing fragile for one of the first times in his tenure. Last week he visited a Sikh temple – the faith of many of the protesting farmers – in an attempted conciliatory move.
Opposition General Secretary Rahul Gandhi sent a message to protestors yesterday, saying: “Keep walking O brave one, patiently you move ahead. Doesn’t matter if there is water cannon shower or bluster/bravado, you don’t fear O fearless one. You remain firm, and walk on. O ‘annadata’, you keep walking.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have continued to insist that the response to demonstrations is a “matter for India”.
However, British demonstrators with familial links to India have brought their frustration directly to No.10’s front door.
Many turned out onto the streets of London earlier this month in solidarity with the farmers.
One such protestor was Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, a Labour MP who raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions a few days later.
The response from Boris Johnson was, naturally, bizarre.
“Our view is that of course we have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle,” he said.
Farmers have now agreed to hold talks with the government today (WED).
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