The petition comes at a time when international attention has turned to widespread farmers’ protests, after global popstar Rihanna and teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg both tweeted about the ongoing situation in India on Tuesday.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) February 2, 2021
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 2, 2021
Demonstrations in India and across the globe — including in Canada — have been calling on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to repeal three recently passed agricultural laws.
The farmers — many of whom hail from India’s northern Punjab and Haryana states — are concerned that the laws, which bring corporations into the controlled agricultural sector, will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and will lead to the ultimate loss of their land and livelihood.
“Instead of using water cannons, tear gas and violence, the Indian government needs to engage in open dialogue with farmers,” reads the petition.
Prime Minister Trudeau previously voiced concerns in November about the ongoing situation and the rights of farmers during a video call with several Sikh Liberal MPs.
“The situation is concerning … Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests,” stated Trudeau at the time.
“We believe in the importance of dialogue, and that’s why we’ve reached out by multiple means to Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”
The Indian government’s Ministry of Affairs responded to Trudeau, calling his comments “an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.”
“Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada,” noted Indian officials.
Global organizations speak out and India responds
Last week, hundreds of thousands of farmers took to India’s capital of Delhi on January 26 — the country’s Republic Day — to continue their protests.
During the Republic Day demonstrations, some groups of protesters broke away from the main demonstrations, clashing with police and entered the historic Lal Quila (Red Fort), and at least one farmer was reported dead.
Following the events of January 26, at least eight journalists covering the protests are now facing criminal charges. Several more have had their social media accounts suspended.
“What they had in common was the inclusion of hashtags referring to the protests,” states Reporters Without Borders in a statement.
In a February 3 statement, Human Rights Watch noted that India’s central government shut down mobile internet service at some protest sites near Delhi.
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The Internet Freedom Foundation, Free Software Movement of India, and Software Freedom Law Centre India issued a statement condemning the internet shutdowns, which they say have been used to “suppress farmers’ protests.”
In a February 3 statement responding to the recent attention to the protests, the Indian Government said the demonstrations “must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the Government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse.”
“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible. ”