“We have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan," said UK PM Boris Johnson, about the ongoing farmers’ protests in India.
Sounds confusing? Well, everyone is.
The farmers’ protests entered the 15th day on Thursday. Thousands of protesting farmers from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been gathered at five different borders since November 26 including Delhi’s Chilla and Singhu border for nearly two weeks, demanding a repeal of three agricultural laws passed by the Centre in September. The protesting farmers have a set of five main demands including implementation of MSP.
If you are unaware about the ongoing agitation and want to know what the farmers are protesting against, read this.
While addressing Sikh participants from across Canada, on a Zoom meeting organised to celebrate the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest." Trudeau had said this in context to the farmers’ protest.
Thus, it came as a bit of surprise when Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed confused about the protests and thought it was an issue between India and Pakistan.
British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who has been leading a drive to keep the protests by the Indian farmers against the government’s agricultural reforms in the news in Britain, repeated one of his previous Twitter statements on the issue in the House of Commons during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) session.
“Many constituents, especially those emanating from Punjab and other parts of India, and I were horrified to see footage of water cannons, teargas and brute force being used against peacefully protesting farmers. However, it was heart-warming to see those very farmers feeding those forces who had been ordered to beat or suppress them. What indomitable spirit and it takes a special kind of people to do that,” the opposition lawmaker said.
“So, will the Prime Minister (Johnson) convey to the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) our heartfelt anxieties, our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock and does he agree that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protest,” he questioned Johnson.
A confused Boris Johnson reiterated the UK government’s stance that any dispute between India and Pakistan was for the two countries to settle bilaterally.
Johnson, in his brief response, went on to address a completely unrelated matter instead. “Our view is that of course we have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle and I know that he appreciates that point," said Johnson.
Dhesi, who looked visibly perplexed, was quick to take to social media once again as he posted the exchange on Twitter, adding: “But it might help if our PM actually knew what he was talking about!”
Many were horrified to see water cannon, tear gas and brute force being used against farmers peacefully protesting in India about #FarmersBill2020.Everyone has the fundamental right to protest peacefully.
But it might help if our PM actually knew what he was talking about! pic.twitter.com/EvqGHMhW0Y
— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) December 9, 2020
“Absolutely clueless! So disappointed with his response," Dhesi said in another tweet.
The world is watching, issue is a huge one with hundreds of thousands protesting globally (including in London, reported on by BBC) and the usual Boris Johnson bluff and bluster heaps further embarrassment onto our nation. Absolutely clueless! So disappointed with his response.— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) December 9, 2020
This is how Twitter reacted to it:
What have I just watched ♀️Farmers in India have been protesting against exploitative new laws that threaten to leave families and entire communities without the means to live.
The Prime Minister hasn’t even bothered to read the headlines. https://t.co/YKLpmnZUNE
— Nadia Whittome MP (@NadiaWhittomeMP) December 9, 2020
Extremely concerned at @BorisJohnson lack of understanding & complete ignorance when answering this question. The issue categorically has nothing to do with Pakistan.We didn’t think #GodiMedia would dupe Boris.@bbcnewspunjabi@BBCNews @thetimes @SkyNews @RaviSinghKA https://t.co/MBvqrNIznf— Harkirth Kaur (@HarkirthK) December 9, 2020
The UK government has so far refused to be drawn into the ongoing protests in India, with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) saying the matter of handling protests was an internal one.”
The police handling of protests is a matter for the government of India, an FCDO spokesperson said last week, following a letter initiated by Dhesi and signed by 35 other UK MPs over the issue.
(With inputs from PTI)