Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 4
For the second time in as many days, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) pushed back at international criticism that included a statement by the US State Department. It defended the cutting off of Internet as a measure aimed at preventing a repeat of the violence at Red Fort on January 26 “which evoked a similar reaction in India as did the incidents at Capitol Hill”.
Asked at the weekly media briefing whether the Foreign Office taken up with the State Department its statement on the farmers’ agitation that came after the MEA had already stated the Government’s position, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “We have taken note of the comments of the US State Dept and what we would say it is important to see them in context they are made and in their entirety.”
“Any protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the ongoing efforts of the Government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse,” he said, indicating that the door for talks was open.
While pointing out that both India and the US are vibrant democracies with shared values, Srivastava said the incidents of violence and vandalism at Red Fort on January 26 have evoked “similar sentiments and reactions” in India the incidents on Capitol Hill on January 6. They are being addressed “as per our respective local laws,” he observed.
Happy to share that I’ve donated $10,000 to provide medical assistance to the farmers in need in India to help save lives during these times. I hope we can prevent any additional life from being lost. 🙏🏾 #FarmersProtest https://t.co/0WoEw0l3ij— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) February 3, 2021
The temporary measures with regard to internet access in certain parts of the NCR region were therefore undertaken to prevent further violence, he added.
Earlier in the day, the US State Department called for observing human rights and rules of fair play while supporting the general trajectory of the three farm laws.
“We recognise that unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy,” in response to a question on the ongoing farmers’ protests in India and called for resolving differences through dialogue.
Solidarity with all the farmers across India protesting for their livelihood.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 3, 2021
India must protect their basic democratic rights, allow for the free flow of information, reinstate internet access, and release all the journalists detained for covering the protests. https://t.co/uOvwNkIu5n
“In general, the US welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment,” added Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson
“We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same,” he emphasised.
The State Department and several politicians from the US, UK, Canada and Australia have sought a resolution of the farmers’ agitation.
The tweets by some celebrities in the West, prompted the MEA to advise them to fully understand the intent of the farm laws before rushing to comment.
New Delhi says the three farm laws will give greater flexibility and freedom to sell farm produce but the protesting farmers claim they are heavily weighted in favour of the corporates.
The State Department as well as the celebrities have stressed on the shutting off the Internet services and police intimidation after a small group of farmers went off course during the January 26 Tractor March into Delhi and indulged in vandalism at the Red Fort. The Haryana government has since restored Internet services in parts of the state but not at the protest sites of Singhu and Tikri. The Internet is also shut at Ghazipur, on the border with Delhi.
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