India on Wednesday said criticism of the government’s handling of the farmers’ protests against three farm laws by foreign individuals was “neither accurate nor responsible” in a response to comments by musician Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
A statement issued by the external affairs ministry contended “vested interest groups” are trying to enforce their agenda on the protests to derail them and said these groups have tried to mobilise global support against India. The statement also referred to “sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” by “celebrities and others” but didn’t name anyone.
It is rare for the external affairs ministry to respond to tweets by foreign celebrities criticising events within the country though it has, in recent weeks, pushed back against comments by leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and lawmakers in other countries supporting the farmers’ protest.
“We would like to emphasise that these protests 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 statement said.
“Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” it said.
“reformist legislation” were passed by Parliament after a “full debate and discussion”.
“These reforms give expanded market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming,” it said, explaining the government’s position on the laws.
It said “a very small section of farmers in parts of India” had reservations about the reforms and the government initiated a series of talks with their representatives. Union ministers were part of the negotiations in 11 rounds of talks. “The government has even offered to keep the laws on hold, an offer iterated by no less than the Prime Minister of India,” it said.
“Yet, it is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests, and derail them. This was egregiously witnessed on January 26, India’s Republic Day. A cherished national commemoration, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Constitution of India, was besmirched, and violence and vandalism took place in the Indian capital,” the statement said.
The ministry said, “Some of these vested interest groups have also tried to mobilise international support against India”. Instigated by such “fringe elements”, Mahatma Gandhi statues were desecrated in parts of the world, and this is “extremely disturbing for India and for civilised society everywhere”.
It added that Indian police had handled these protests with “utmost restraint”, and that “hundreds of men and women serving in the police have been physically attacked, and in some cases stabbed and seriously wounded”.
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