Indian government angry after UK parliament debate ‘press freedoms and safety of protestors’ in India

India’s foreign office summoned the United Kingdom’s high commissioner over what it called “unwarranted and tendentious discussion” of Indian agricultural reforms in the British parliament.

India’s federal government passed three agricultural laws late last year aimed at liberalising the agricultural sector. Thousands of farmers in protest have been campaigning on the outskirts of New Delhi since November last year. The farmers say the legislation benefits large private buyers at their expense and that these laws would jeopardise their livelihoods.

On Monday UK legislators debated a petition urging Indian government to ensure press freedom and safety of protesters. The petition received more than 115,000 signatures on the UK parliament’s website and was initiated by Maidenhead Liberal Democrat leader Gurch Singh, who has Indian roots.

The discussion among UK legislatures has caused anger in India, which accused the parliamentarians of interfering in India’s internal affairs.

At Tuesday’s meeting, India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told Alexander Ellis, who was appointed as envoy earlier this year, the debate “represented a gross interference in the politics of another democratic country”, according to a ministry statement.

“He advised that British MPs should refrain from practising vote bank politics by misrepresenting events, especially in relation to another fellow democracy,” it added, in an apparent reference to British legislators and voters of Indian descent.

The farmer’s protest in India is the biggest challenge faced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi since coming to power in 2014. The protests have gotten international support, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, well-known figures including pop star Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg.

In January, India’s Supreme Court ordered an indefinite stay on implementation of the legislation, but the farmers are insisting the laws be repealed. Several rounds of government negotiations with the protesting farmers also failed.