US supports India's agri laws, remains silent on farmers' protests

Unfazed, Thunberg tweeted she “still” stood with farmers and “no amount of threats” would change that
After foreign celebrities sided with protesting farmers, the US supported India’s move to frame farm laws but at the same time did not oppose peaceful agitations over it. The state department said it encourages that any differences between the parties be resolved peacefully.

Meanwhile, the Delhi police cyber cell registered a first information report to investigate an “international conspiracy” to defame the country, said a senior police officer. Teen climate campaigner Greta Thunberg’s tweets on farmers have been cited in the case filed. Unfazed, Thunberg tweeted she “still” stood with farmers and “no amount of threats” would change that.

Opposition MPs, on the other hand, tried to go to Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border to meet the protesting farmers, but were stopped by police enroute. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi met in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, the family members of a person who died in protests over farm laws on the Republic Day and urged the government to repeal the “black” laws.

Stringent security continued at Ghazipur, one of the key protest sites where thousands of farmers are camping with a demand that the Centre repeal the laws enacted last September. Iron nails studded on roads at Ghazipur border to restrict the movement of agitating farmers are being “repositioned”, a senior police officer said. The statement came after videos and photos of workers removing the nails near Ghazipur border surfaced on social media.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated events to mark the centenary anniversary of the Chauri Chaura incident in Uttar Pradesh virtually but did not mention farm laws or the protest during his address. He, however, listed the provisions in his government’s recent Budget and said these would help farmers. The Chauri Chaura incident is related to the burning of police station by protestors during the freedom struggle.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told Rajya Sabha that the government would provide Rs 1 trillion additional income to farmers that will be generated by converting waste into energy. He said the heap of waste at Ghazipur would also be cleaned soon to create energy.

Indicating that the new Biden administration is supportive of the federal government’s move in India to reform the agricultural sector that attracts private investment and greater market access to farmers, a State Department spokesperson said in Washington: “In general, the United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India's markets and attract greater private sector investment.”

He, however, said: “We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same.”

The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement on Wednesday to highlight that Parliament had passed “reformist legislation” for the agricultural sector, which “a very small section of farmers” have some reservations about and therefore the laws have been kept on hold while talks are held.

Several American lawmakers came out in support of the farmers’ protests in India. Congresswoman Haley Stevens said: “I am concerned by the reported actions against peaceful demonstrators protesting new agricultural reform laws in India.”

Twitter India removed two of the posts by Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut, citing a violation of the platform's rules. The actor has been criticising protesting farmers.

Indian cricket caption Virat Kohli on Thursday said the ongoing protest against new agriculture laws came up for discussion in his team meeting where everyone has "expressed their views". 

On Wednesday, Kohli was among a host of Indian cricket stars, including Sachin Tendulkar, who urged for unity in the country after some international celebrities like US pop star Rihanna called attention to the plight of the agitating farmers on social media.

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