**Parliamentary debate highlighting human rights abuses in India threatens to delay Boris Johnson’s visit to India and progress on trade deal negotiations ** London – 8 March 2021
A 90-minute debate on the farmers protest in India – the world’s single largest ever protest - is due to take place later today at 4.30pm in Westminster Hall.
We estimate almost a million British nationals and residents in the UK have families in India who are directly impacted by these farmer protests that have been taking place over the last three and half months.
The debate is taking place following a Parliamentary e-petition titled: “Urge the Indian Government to ensure safety of protesters and press freedom” that very quickly attracted over 115,000 signatures from constituents covering all 650 MPs.
The Petitions Committee prioritised this debate and dozens of MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed an interest to speak. Around 25 MPs are expected to contribute in what many expect will be a lively debate.
However, it is rumoured the Indian High Commission has not been able to persuade a single MP to defend its position in the debate later today.
Boris Johnson is planning a springtime trip to India in April where he is expected to announce new business deals during the trip and is worried the debate will offend the Indian authorities and jeopardise Liz Truss’s weekly talks with her Indian counterpart. Some have suggested India may have threatened to cancel Boris Johnson’s visit in April.
MPs from all political parties are expected to be highly critical of the Indian authorities handling of the human rights violations against farmers, journalists, activists and others supporting them.
Although the debate is not about the three controversial Indian farm laws certain leading MPs may put the Foreign Minister on the spot by revealing experts have suggested the new farming laws in India may have violated a specific UN agricultural treaty.
The treaty to which India are signatories specifically protects farmer rights that may require all three Indian farm laws to be repealed – the key demand of the farmers who are protesting. MPs forcing the UK Government to take this up on the international stage may trigger an adverse reaction given the BJP’s track record on dealing with criticism.
MPs will want the Foreign Minister responding on behalf of the UK Government to explain at the end of the debate what specific actions the UK Government has taken in the last 12 weeks since Dominic Raab met the Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in India.
A month earlier Jacob-Rees Moog in response to concerns raised in Parliament about human rights violations perpetrated on farmers and journalists in India stated the UK champions human rights on the international stage. He indicated the UK Government was able to use the Chair of the UN Security Council in February 2021 to act on the farmers protest.
MPs will also want to know what actions the UK Government has taken or plans to take at the 46th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council that is ongoing in Geneva given concerns raised by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Human Rights Commissioner and the UN Secretary General.
The UK Government has rightly raised concerns about the treatment of protesters in Hong Kong and has introduced sanctions having witnessed the human rights violations in Myanmar.
However, given the scale and duration of the farmers protest in India, the numerous human rights violations and the direct impact on over a million Brits the UK Government is expected to come under intense pressure to take tough action despite trade negotiations.
The Sikh Federation (UK) briefing for the debate that has been sent to all MPs is at the following link.
The briefing covers the following 10 matters that MPs expected to speak in the debate have confirmed they will raise. 1. We are witnessing the world’s single largest ever protest
Protesters initially stopped from taking their protest to Delhi
Freedom of expression, right to assemble and peacefully protest
Indiscriminate detention, disappearances and torture
Protesters face ridiculous charges of terrorism, sedition and anti-national conduct
State sponsored goons and badgeless police officers instigate attacks on protester camps
Food, electricity and fresh water supplies cut at protest sites
Internet restrictions and social media blackout
Indian government crackdown on journalists reporting on the farmers protest
Celebrities, climate change activists and female activists and politicians targeted
Stephen Kinnock is expected to speak from the front bench of the Labour Party and Ed Davey and Layla Morgan on the front bench for the Liberal Democrats. Other speakers could include Jeremy Corbyn, the former Leader of the Labour Party who released a powerful video several days ago.
Harnek Singh National Press Secretary Sikh Federation (UK)