LONDON: Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been urged to raise human rights concerns related to the protests by farmers in India in talks with his Indian counterparts during a scheduled visit to New Delhi this week, following a weekend of demonstrations held in solidarity in different parts of the UK.
Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey said that while the agricultural reform policies are a matter of Indian domestic politics, the use of "militarised police" against the protesters was of some concern.
"Although respecting another country, another government's right to know what their policy should be, in terms of protests, one has to respect people's human rights," Davey told the Indian Journalists' Association (IJA) in the UK when asked about the protests.
"When a government is putting through controversial legislation, particularly a great democracy like India, it is important that they uphold their own democratic values and respect human rights. I would urge our Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to meet with the Indian government and make representations on the human rights situation for the farmers," he said.
His comments come as several other British MPs, led by Opposition Labour Party's Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, had written to Raab raising concerns over the use of "water cannons and brute force" against protesting farmers in India and sought his representations on behalf of the "British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations".
The UK government has so far only stated that the Foreign Office is "following the issue of protests in India closely".
India has called the remarks by foreign leaders and politicians on protests by farmers as "ill-informed" and "unwarranted", asserting that the matter pertains to the internal affairs of a democratic country.
"We have seen some ill-informed comments, relating to farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said last week.
Meanwhile, a group of students came together at the Oxford University Parks for a protest organised by the Oxford India Society, Oxford Sikh Society and Oxford South Asian Society in unequivocal solidarity with the Indian farmers, who are protesting against three new laws which they believe will leave them vulnerable to big corporations.
However, the Indian government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
There have been multiple rounds of talks between representatives of the protestors and the Indian government but the logjam continues.
There have been a number of protests in the UK, including a massive car rally on the streets of Birmingham over the weekend, in support of Indian farmers.
West Midlands Police said the protesters caused traffic disruption in Birmingham and Sandwell and said that officers on the ground prosecuted a number of drivers for road traffic offences, including careless driving, and issued directions to leave to more than 1,000 people.
Three people have been issued with a 100 pounds fixed penalty notice after refusing to comply with regulations following a direction to leave.
"Unfortunately some smoke flares were thrown from moving vehicles, putting other road users in danger and as part of the post incident review CCTV, drone, body worn video, and camera footage will be reviewed to identify any offences, and those involved will be prosecuted retrospectively," said Superintendent Sarah Burton, who led the local police response to the rally on Saturday.
"While we absolutely respect and support the right to demonstrate, there are requirements that need to be met by law. An organiser needs to be identified and the police should be notified in advance. It's very unfortunate that didn't happen, and we will be taking steps to identify the people responsible," she said.
The force said that although Birmingham and Sandwell are no longer in lockdown, both areas remain on very high alert in Tier 3, and strict regulations introduced by the government remain in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.