U.S. Senators Demand Protection of Farmers’ Rights in India

Photo: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez
Photo: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez

As India has lost its status of a democracy, the world leaders are accusing PM Modi for his autocratic actions against the people of India.

By Rakesh Raman

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are calling on the Biden administration to further engage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over its treatment of farmers in India who have been peacefully demonstrating against the passage of new farming laws.

The Senators raised concerns over the months-long demonstrations that have been met with orders from the central government and local authorities in India to shut off internet access in protest areas, cut off water and electricity supplies for the tens of thousands living in protest camps, and impede the work of journalists reporting on the protests.

“While we do not take a position on internal Indian policy matters, we recognize and condemn that on January 26, a small faction of protesters engaged in unacceptable violence at the Red Fort in New Delhi, but protest leaders quickly condemned the violence and the vast majority of protesters remained peaceful. However, Indian authorities at different levels of government have used that day’s events as a pretext to undertake a broader and sustained crackdown on peaceful protesters, journalists, and government critics,” wrote the Senators to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“India’s people and government will determine the path forward on these laws, and peaceful dialogue and respect for the viewpoints of all peaceful actors should drive that decision. As the U.S. pursues a more perfect union here at home, including efforts to bolster the rule of law and our democracy, those efforts reinforce the importance of addressing challenges to democracies abroad as well,” the Senators added.

In their letter of March 18, the Senators urged Secretary Blinken to raise the importance of freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest in conversations with his Indian counterparts and to ensure that State Department officials at all levels do so as well.

Following the passage of contentious farming laws last fall, Indian farmers have engaged in over 100 days of peaceful demonstrations to express their opposition to certain policies.

The Senators said they are alarmed by the sedition charges against a leading opposition politician and a 22-year-old climate activist related to the protests. The central government has repeatedly ordered Twitter to shut down accounts that relate to or report on the protests, including those of media organizations and journalists, and threatened to arrest Indian Twitter employees if Twitter fails to comply, as reported by CNN.

At the same time, according to the Senators, Indian authorities have also sought to hinder the work of journalists reporting on the protests. Indian authorities have filed criminal complaints against at least 10 journalists for their reporting on the protests, including charges of sedition.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) said the accusations represent “a headlong assault on press freedom,” and Indian press freedom groups have characterized them as an intimidation tactic to stifle the media.

“As the U.S. pursues a more perfect union here at home, including efforts to bolster the rule of law and our democracy, those efforts reinforce the importance of addressing challenges to democracies abroad as well,” the Senators said.

As India has lost its status of a democracy, the world leaders are accusing PM Modi for his autocratic actions against the people of India. With extreme corruption, human rights violations, and disrespect for the rule of law under the Modi regime, India has become a veritable dictatorship state like North Korea, Russia, or China.

While Modi is inspired by the despotic tendencies of the former U.S. President Donald Trump, it seems that the Biden administration has decided to tame Modi who is behaving as a Trump clone. In his call with Modi on February 8, President Joe Biden made it clear that he wants India to respect democratic values, which have vanished during the past 6 years of Modi’s rule in India.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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