It has been over 100 days since thousands of protesting farmers converged in and around Delhi demanding the repeal of three contentious laws. And while the Indian government and the agitating farmers remain in a deadlock, UK parliament held a debate on the issue on Monday.
Over the last few months several British lawmakers across party lines had backed the farmers, writing to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab or even questioning Prime Minister Boris Johnson about it in parliament. British parliamentary convention requires petitions that garner at least 10,000 signatures on the UK government website to get a response from the administration. Such petitions are also usually debated.
And so as thousands converged to sign the petition, it was announced last week that parliament would be debating the petition on the 8th. Till date, the petition has received more than 115,000 signatures.
But the debate itself went somewhat differently from what the petitioners might have hoped for. As the British government minister deputed to respond to the debate, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Nigel Adams said the close UK-India relationship did not hinder the UK in any way from raising difficult issues with India, even as he reiterated the government line that agricultural reforms are a "domestic matter" for India.
"Agricultural policy is a domestic matter for the Indian government. The UK government firmly believes that freedom of speech and the right for peaceful protest are vital to any democracy but we also accept that if a protest crosses the line into illegality, security forces in a democracy have the right to enforce law and order," Adams said.
Expressing hope that the dialogue between the protesting farmers and the Indian government would bear fruit, he added that officials from the UK's network of high commissions in India have "monitored and reported back on the protest".
Meanwhile, India has not taken kindly to the debate. In a sternly worded statement the Indian High Commission condemned the debate for putting up "false assertions" in a "distinctly one-sided discussion".
"We deeply regret that rather than a balanced debate, false assertions -- without substantiation or facts -- were made, casting aspersions on the largest functioning democracy in the world and its institutions," the commission said in a statement after the debate.
(With inputs from agencies)