The US on Thursday called peaceful protests and unhindered access to information, including the internet, hallmarks of a “thriving democracy” even as it backed farm reforms in India saying that would increase the efficiency of Indian markets and attract more private investment. Here is all you need to know what Washington said on the ongoing farmers’ agitation at New Delhi’s borders for the first time since it began in November and continuing global spotlight on the issue:
•The carefully worded response by Joe Biden’s administration also encouraged a “dialogue” between farmers and the government to end the agitation
•The agitation has been getting global attraction with international celebrities such as pop star Rihanna and green activist Greta Thunberg tweeting in support of the protesters.
• India said the comments by the US must be seen in their entirety while pointing out that State Department “has acknowledged” India’s steps towards reforms, which have emerged as a point of contention.
• The government also appeared to draw parallels between a farmers’ rally on January 26 that plunged into chaos and the January 6 storming of the US Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters protesting election results that declared his defeat in the presidential race.
• The State Department did not mention anything specific to three new farm laws that have triggered the agitation.It appeared supportive of reforms.
• Tens of thousands of farmers have camped at Delhi’s borders, demanding the repeal of the three laws passed by Parliament in September. Eleven rounds of talks between the protesters and the government have failed to break the impasse.
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Protesters say the laws will hurt their livelihood and leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The government defends the laws as necessary for long-overdue reforms in the agriculture sector.
On Republic Day, violence broke out during a tractor rally by farmers after a section of the protesters veered off the routes agreed with police and resorted to vandalism. Clashes broke out in several places, including the 17th-century Red Fort and the ITO intersection.
On that day, internet services were suspended, albeit temporarily, at three key protest sites — Singhu and Tikri (on Haryana border), and Ghazipur (on Uttar Pradesh border). Services were suspended again on January 29 for two days and then extended till February 3.
After the violence, authorities stepped up security at the protest sites, placing iron spikes and steel barricades to prevent the agitators from entering Delhi.
• The agitation gained the global spotlight after Rihanna, who has 101 million followers, tweeted a CNN news report about internet curbs on Tuesday.
• Valerie Vaz, an MP of Britain’s Labour Party, wrote a letter to foreign minister Dominic Raab to reiterate the concerns of her constituents regarding events related to the farmers’ protest.
• Vaz asked Raab to contact the Indian government “as a matter of urgency regarding these concerning events”. The Indian-origin MP was among 35 British lawmakers to take up the farmers’ protest with Raab before he visited India in December.
• On Wednesday, India said criticism by foreign celebrities and attempts to “mobilise international support” against the country on the government’s handling of the protests without ascertaining facts were “neither accurate nor responsible”.
• In a rare statement, the external affairs ministry contended that “vested interest groups” were trying to enforce their agenda, referring to “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” by “celebrities and others”. It didn’t name anyone.