Seven U.S. lawmakers urge Pompeo to raise farmers’ protest issue with Jaishankar

In a letter, they express “serious concern” over the “ongoing civil unrest” in India

A group of seven American lawmakers — six Democrats and a Republican — has written to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the farmers’ protest, expressing “serious concern” over the “ongoing civil unrest” in India. The letter asks Mr. Pompeo to reach out to his counterpart, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, on the issue.

“As a nation that is familiar with political protests we believe that the United States can offer counsel to India during their current period of social disturbance,” the lawmakers wrote on December 23 about the thousands of farmers from States like Punjab and Haryana who have been engaging in a ‘Dilli Chalo’ (march on Delhi) protest for a month. The farmers are protesting agricultural laws passed by Parliament in September.

Also read | Explained: Who gains and who loses from the farm Bills?

“As national legislators we respect the right of the government of India to determine national policy, in compliance with existing law. We also acknowledge the rights of those in India and abroad who are currently protesting peacefully against agricultural laws that many Indian farmers see as an attack on their economic security,” they wrote.

New Delhi has previously bristled at criticism from foreign governments and said it is an interference in India’s internal affairs.

Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments in support of the farmers were called ill-informed and unwarranted by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.

“In particular, we are compelled to reach out to you after seeing in the international press that protesting farmers from Punjab, who were marching peacefully to Delhi, were brutally subjected to water cannon attacks, barbed wire barricades, and tear gas by Indian security personnel,” the U.S. Members of Congress (House of Representatives) said in their letter.

“This is an issue of particular concern to Sikh Americans linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts the Indian Americans belonging to other Indian states. Many Indian Americans are directly affected as they have family members and ancestral land in Punjab and are concerned for the well-being of their families in India.”

Another set of three lawmakers of the American Sikh Caucus had written to India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu in early December, expressing concern over the government’s reaction to the protests.

“In view of this serious situation, we urge you to contact your Indian counterpart to reinforce the United States’ commitment to the freedom of political speech abroad,” the latest December 23 letter says.

The lawmakers who authored the letter are Democrats Donald Norcross (New Jersey), Brendan F. Boyle (Pennsylvania), Pramila Jayapal (Washington), Debbie Dingell (Michigan), Mary Gay Scanlon (Pennsylvania), David Trone (Marlyand) and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania).

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