Farmers’ protest | U.S. calls for dialogue, recognises right to protest

Farmers’ protest | U.S. calls for dialogue, recognises right to protest

MEA draws parallels between U.S. Capitol and Red Fort violence.

Following expressions of support on social media to the farmers’ protest by several well-known personalities and celebrities, including pop icon Rihanna, youth climate activist Greta Thunberg and others, the U.S government has also spoken, encouraging dialogue and supporting the right to peaceful protest.

The U.S.’s reactions were recorded in a statement released by its Embassy in New Delhi and through a State Department statement released to a Wall Street Journal reporter on Thursday.

Washington has also welcomed steps that would enhance the efficiency of India’s markets.

Farmers are protesting the passage of three agricultural laws in 2019 that they see as detrimental to their interests.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) likened the vandalism at the Red Fort on Republic Day to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It said Internet access was shut off last week and earlier this week to prevent violence.

“We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy, and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same. We encourage that any differences between the parties be resolved through dialogue. In general, the United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy said.

Net shutdown

Access to information was fundamental to democracy, the U.S. said in reaction to the Haryana government temporarily shutting down mobile Internet services in several districts last week and earlier this week, stating law and order reasons.

“We recognize that unhindered access to information, including the Internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy,” the statement said.

MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said India had noted the U.S. reaction.

“It is important to see such comments in the context in which they were made and in their entirety,” Mr. Srivastava said. “As you can see, the U.S. State Department has acknowledged steps being taken by India towards agricultural reforms.”

The U.S. statement, however, mentioned the right to protest peacefully and called for dialogue before it addressed the market efficiency issue.

Protests must be viewed in the context of India’s “democratic ethos and polity,” Mr. Srivastava said, as well as the “ongoing efforts of the government” to resolve the impasse.

“India and the United States are both vibrant democracies with shared values. The incidents of violence and vandalism at the historic Red Fort on 26 January have evoked similar sentiments and reactions in India as did the incidents on the Capitol Hill on 6 January and are being addressed as per our respective local laws,” he said, adding that the Internet shutdown was in place temporarily to prevent “further violence.”

On Wednesday. the MEA reacted strongly to the celebrities’ comments, criticizing the “sensationalist social media hashtags” and urging “the facts be ascertained”.

SFJ’s ‘role’

In response to a question about allegations of North American Sikh separatist organization Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) getting involved in the farmers’ protest, Mr. Srivastava said the government had asked the U.S. government to investigate the matter.

“India has issued a Mutual Legal Assistance Request to the USA for investigation in the matter of Sikhs for Justice/Referendum 2020. As per procedure, the request has been sent directly by the concerned authorities to the US Department of Justice (DoJ),” he said.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had registered a case in New Delhi in mid-December in which it alleged that SFJ – which had unsuccessfully launched a 2020 referendum for the secession of Punjab from India – was involved in “largescale disruptive activities” in India.

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