TORONTO – Indian politicians criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for helping escalate farmer protests in their country.
Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have invaded India’s capital, New Delhi, to protest laws passed in September that farmers say will allow companies to exploit farm workers.
Farmers were greeted with tear gas and water cannons upon arrival in New Delhi, but said they intended to stay in the areas for weeks if necessary.
Trudeau weighed in on Monday at a virtual celebration for Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurpurab, a festival to mark the 551st birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
“The situation is concerning and we are all very concerned for families and friends,” Trudeau said on the video conference, which was then tweeted by the World Organization of Sikhs.
“Canada will also be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that is why we have contacted the Indian authorities directly by multiple means to highlight our concerns. ”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the new laws give farmers more autonomy to set their own prices and the ability to sell their products directly to businesses.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and B.C. Premier John Horgan have already issued statements in support of Indian farmers, though Trudeau is considered the first world leader to make a public statement.
Trudeau’s comments drew sharp criticism from Indian politicians on both sides of the debate. In a statement, the spokesman for the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, described the remarks as “uninformed”.
“Such comments are unwarranted, especially when they concern the internal affairs of a democratic country,” the statement read. “It is also preferable that diplomatic conversations are not distorted for political ends. ”
Priyanka Chaturvedi, Indian MP and deputy leader of Shiv Sena, a right-wing regional party, tweeted that she is “touched” by Trudeau’s concern, but “India’s internal problem is not food for another nation’s politics.”
In an opinion piece on the New Delhi TV website, Chaturvedi called it “unfortunate” that Trudeau is using “India’s internal problem to promote his own place in his country’s politics.”
“In international relations, there are courtesies for not commenting on the internal affairs of a nation, India has always extended it to other nations, we expect the same to be extended to l ‘India,’ Chaturvedi wrote in the article.
Chaturvedi added that if the Indian government continues to ignore the protests, the country will open up to comments from other nations.
Raghav Chadha, spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the New Delhi region, echoed Chaturvedi’s comments.
“While we urge the government (Bharatiya Janata) to immediately resolve and accede to farmers’ demands, this remains an internal matter in India,” he wrote in the tweet. “AAP believes that interference or comments from elected leaders of other countries is unsolicited and unwelcome. India is able to manage its own internal affairs. ”
With files from The Associated Press