Indian farmer protests: Why more than 100 MPs and Lords have signed a letter to Boris Johnson

Farmers in India protest against three new laws which they fear will affect their livelihood Credit: AP
  • By Digital Presenter and Producer Amani Ibrahimi

More than 100 MPs and Lords have signed a cross-party letter asking the UK Prime Minister to convey concerns on the issue of farmers protesting in India

Hundreds of thousands of farmers across India have been protesting against three new agricultural laws which they say will threaten their livelihoods. 

Many people are angry that demonstrators are being met with force and are not being given the right to peacefully protest.

Drafted by Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the letter addresses the issue of tear-gas and water cannons being used on farmers and asks Prime Minister Boris Johnson to raise this with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said: ''Many people, not just in India and in the UK, but across the globe are extremely concerned for the peaceful farmers protests within India.

''Many constituents have contacted MPs like me to raise their concerns.''

The letter comes after Boris Johnson was asked to comment on the Indian farmers’ protests during Prime Minister’s Question last month. 

When asked if the Prime Minister agrees ‘’that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protests’’ in India, Boris Johnson said: ‘’We have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle’’ - indicating that he had misunderstood the question. 

In the letter Boris Johnson is asked to explain his understanding of the matter. 

''We have sought clarification of his understanding of this important issue,'' said MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.

Concerns that if the market becomes unregulated, farmers would not be guaranteed a Minimum Support Price Credit: AP

In September last year, the Indian government passed through three new laws which allows farmers to sell their produce directly to private buyers. 

However, there are concerns that if the market becomes unregulated, farmers would not be guaranteed a Minimum Support Price which has helped many farmers this far.

They fear the government will stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices under the new laws and that bigger corporations will then take control, pushing prices down - eventually leading farmers into debt and poverty. 

Since then, protests have erupted across the country as an attempt to pressure the government into reconsidering their decision and to stop the laws from being implemented.

Representatives of the Indian government and farmers failed to make progress on Friday after talks for the eighth time.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar has refused to repeal the three laws and offered to amend any flaws in the three laws instead but this was declined by farmers who have continued blocking highways into the capital for 44 days now. 

The two sides have agreed to meet again on January 15. 

Indian Farmers block a highway at the Delhi-Haryana border Credit: AP

Last month, the two sides reached an agreement on a couple issues. The government will allow farmers to burn crops without being punished and blamed for causing air pollution as well as continuing its subsidy of electricity for irrigating farms.

Boris Johnson was expected to visit India this month but the trip was cancelled due to the growing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the UK. 

MPs are urging that when the UK Prime Minister does finally meet with his Indian counterpart that he should stress the ‘democratic human right of citizens to peacefully protest’.

MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi says MPs are asking Boris Johnson to convey their 'heartfelt anxieties'.

''We have also requested that he hopes and passes on our hopes of a speedy resolution to the current deadlock.''

Members of different farmer organisations march during a protest in Mumbai Credit: AP

A separate letter was also drafted last month to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab who did raise the issue with the Indian Foreign Minister but failed to do so with the Indian Prime Minister during his meeting in Delhi in December.

In response to the most recent cross-party letter, a government spokesperson said: ''The UK supports the right to peaceful protest anywhere in the world.

''The Foreign Office are following the protests in India closely, but this is ultimately a matter for the Indian Government.”