Three Democratic members of the US House of Representatives have sent a letter to Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, sharing their concern over the way farmers have been treated during the protest underway in India against three new farm laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government.
The three US Representatives’ letter dated December 4 stated that hundreds of thousands of farmers from the states of Punjab and Haryana that have made their way to New Delhi to peacefully protest these new agricultural laws have been met with tear gas, water cannons, barricades, baton attacks, and more by the Indian government.
“A respect for the rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and a thriving civil society are core components of a functioning democracy,” the three US Representatives said in their letter.
“We have been distressed this year to see actions by the Indian government that have restricted these rights for many Indians; not only for farmers, but also for religious minorities, and human rights organizations.”
They said that while governments can set their own internal agricultural policies, “we are deeply concerned” about the response to these protests by the Indian government, which has “reportedly suppressed” the protesting farmers’ right to assemble in peaceful protest.
“The situation in India is troubling,” Congressman Costa said in a statement Tuesday. “The right to peaceful protest is a basic democratic freedom and must be protected. I will continue to closely monitor the situation as it develops.”
The main concern of the letter was to make a plea to remind the Indian government that freedom of expression is the base for any democracy, and suppressing the voices of citizens will damage the core idea of democracy itself.
“A respect of the right of freedom of assembly freedom of the press and thriving civil society are core components for a functioning democracy. We have been distressed by the actions of the Indian government that have restricted these rights to many Indians,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
If the protest continues in this state, India might complicate its bilateral ties with the US, where many of these farmers have children, relatives, and friends, the lawmakers wrote.
There have been echoes of the protest in the US as well, with rallies being held in California and New York among other places.
“Our strong bilateral relationship is based not only on shared interests, but also on what we hope are shared democratic values,” they said.
“We must acknowledge that we have also struggled at times in the United States to live up to the ideals of a just, democratic society, but we continue to strive toward it. As partners and friends, we must encourage one another to continue striving toward those ideals,” they wrote.
“We urge the Indian government to demonstrate its respect for these crucial democratic freedoms, and to be a model of democratic values in the vital Indo-Pacific region,” the lawmakers wrote.
‘REPEAL FARM LAWS’
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) has also said that the government of India must “listen to the farmers, and repeal the three pro-corporate farm laws it recently passed.”
The IAMC, which describes itself as an advocacy group committed to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, pointed out that at least five farmers have died since the protests began.
“The Indian government claims the laws are part of agriculture reforms that will help farmers dispense with middlemen,” IAMS president Ahsan Khan said in a statement.
“But there is a strong merit in the argument of farmers that big corporate firms owned by the likes of Ambani and Adani will take over the role of middlemen, and that there will be no match to their power and grip over farmers,” Khan continued.
“Modi government has allowed big corporations to take over areas which were earlier limited to government control. Farmers’ concern that both prices and demand will be pushed down after corporate firms buy in bulk, and they would be at the mercy of big private conglomerates, is totally understandable,” he added.
Mohammad Jawad, national general secretary, IAMC, was quoted as saying: “The farmers of India have lost faith in the Modi government. They don’t think that the government will work in their interest. It is important that the laws are rolled back.”
The IAMC statement quoted veteran Indian journalist P Sainath, an expert on agriculture, as saying that the new laws are “not only anti-farmer but they contain among the most sweeping exclusions of a citizen’s right to legal recourse in any law outside of the Emergency of 1975-77.”