Press Freedom and Safety of Protesters: India Debate

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Department: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Press Freedom and Safety of Protesters: India

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Monday 8th March 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab) [V]
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As the granddaughter of Punjabi farmers, I am proud to speak today in solidarity with the millions resisting Modi’s regime. Farmers from across India—of all faiths and none, of all genders and all castes—are protesting against laws that threaten livelihoods. In total, 250 million workers went on strike in solidarity. That is the largest strike in world history. In response, in order to stoke communal violence, the Indian Government-controlled media has demonised protesters as Sikh separatists. Protesters have been met with state repression and brutality.

It is timely that the debate is being held on International Women’s Day because women are leading this historic revolt. In January, the courts told women protesters to go home. They suggested that women farmers were not real farmers, but the women workers of India are refusing to be silenced, from farmers’ leaders, such as Jasbir Kaur Nat, to jailed climate activist Disha Ravi, to Dalit trade unionist Nodeep Kaur, who was wrongfully imprisoned, reportedly sexually assaulted and tortured by police.

These women could not contrast more sharply with their sexist Government and the misogynistic movement that supports it. When Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat, he was banned from entering the EU, Britain and the US for his part in instigating the 2012 riots that saw more than 1,000 Muslims killed, so it should concern everyone that this Conservative Government are a close ally of the far-right Hindutva regime in India. Modi spoke alongside David Cameron when he visited the UK, our Home Secretary is an active supporter of the BJP and there are billionaire donors who bankroll both parties.

In the 2019 election, Hindu nationalists mobilised for the Tories, and the Tories are responsive to their bigoted agenda, like their opposition to banning caste discrimination. Modi and Amit Shah decried the truth as propaganda and divisive, but it is not protesting farmers, Rihanna or Greta Thunberg who are dividing India; it is the BJP. This Conversative Government need to decide which side they are on: the side of farmers or the side of fascists.