British lawmakers are set to debate the issue of press freedom and safety of protesters in India next week in response to an e-petition which had crossed the 100,000-signature threshold required for such a debate, the House of Commons Petitions Committee confirmed yesterday.
The 90-minute debate will be held at Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament complex in London and will be opened by Scottish National Party (SNP) MP and member of the Petitions Committee Martyn Day, and a minister will be deputed to respond on behalf of the UK government.
The debate relates to the petition entitled 'Urge the Indian Government to ensure safety of protesters & press freedom', which called on the British government to make a public statement on the farmer protests and press freedoms.
Next week, the issue will come up for debate and is expected to involve backbench MPs who have been vocal on the issue of farmers' protests in India, including Sikh-origin Labour MP Tan Dhesi, who has been one of the most vocal supporters of the Indian farmers.
India has emphasised that the protests by farmers must be seen in the context of India's democratic ethos and polity and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that some vested interest groups have tried to mobilise international support against the country.
"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 MEA said in a statement last month.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at several Delhi border points since November last year, demanding the government to repeal three farm laws and provide them legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for their crops. Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmer unions have not been able to resolve the deadlock.
"Media freedom and the right to protest are essential to robust democracies such as the UK and India. Governments have the power to enforce law and order if a protest crosses the line into illegality," the UK government had said in its written response to the petition last month.