“We have seen some misinformed comments from Canadian leaders regarding farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when they concern the internal affairs of a democratic country, ”Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Tuesday.
“It is also preferable that diplomatic conversations are not distorted for political purposes.”
Speaking at an online event to mark the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, the Canadian leader said the news from India was “concerning” and that his country would be ” always there to defend the rights of peaceful demonstration ”.
Thousands of farmers have been camping outside India’s capital, New Delhi, for nearly a week now, demanding the dropping of controversial agricultural laws enacted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party.
In the global family of our planet, it is always heartening that world leaders stand up for the right of citizens to protest. #JustinTrudeau https://t.co/MLlxk9YP5J
– Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) December 1, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government defended the laws and accused opposition parties of deceiving farmers, who called the bills “anti-farmer”. His government says the new laws will bring much-needed private investment to the crisis-hit agricultural sector.
Decline in farm income
Over the past decades, the share of agriculture in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has declined as the agricultural sector is hit by high debt, poor harvests, drought and low prices for products. The sector represents 15% of the economy but employs more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
Farmers fear that the minimum support price (MSP) – the price at which the government buys agricultural products – will be phased out and left at the mercy of private actors.
A @JustinTrudeau “Expressed concern” about the peaceful protests in Hong Kong? Thailand? Poland? France? Bangladesh? What about the many countries that have seen protests in recent weeks? Or is he interested in defending the rights of only politically relevant groups?
– Palki Sharma (@palkisu) December 1, 2020
A number of politicians in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US have expressed solidarity with Indian farmers in recent days and criticized the Modi government’s handling of the biggest protests in years.
But Trudeau became the first leader of a country to comment on the issue that put the Modi government on its feet.
Canada was all the rage on Twitter on Tuesday as Indians shared their views on social media following Trudeau’s comments.
“He is not responsible for law and order in our country. This is something the government of the day has to take care of and the government takes care of everything and engages the farmers, ”BJP spokesman Syed Zafar Islam told Al Jazeera.
A spokesman for the Shiv Sena party, which rules the western state of Maharashtra, said “India’s internal problem is not food for another nation’s politics.”
“Please respect the courtesies we always give to other nations,” Priyanka Chaturvedi said of Trudeau’s comments.
Sikh minority in Canada
Canada is home to a large number of Indian immigrants, mainly from the Indian state of Punjab, where most of the current protesters have farms. Trudeau has been praised for his pro-immigrant policy. He has inducted four ministers of Indian origin into his cabinet, three of whom are from the Sikh minority community.
Indian politicians have accused Canadian leaders, including the current Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, of having ties to Khalistani groups – who are believed to have sparked an armed rebellion in the state of Punjab in the 1980s for a separate Sikh state. Sajjan has denied the allegations.
Since #JustinTrudeau farmers supported
Bhakts – This is for Sikh votes.
OpIndia – Trudeau has Khalistani connections
MEA spox – It’s our internal business.
Conclusion – Without soul-searching, forcefully attack anyone who criticizes.
– Anu Mittal (ylstylistanu) December 1, 2020
The Khalistani issue cast a shadow over Trudeau’s visit to India in 2018 in which the Canadian prime minister was snubbed by the Modi government, which is known for its strident anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies.
“Trudeau has a large NRI (Non-Resident Indian) constituency with several Sikh ministers. I think he talks to them too and sees the farmers’ protests as a human rights issue. Human rights issues always have an international dimension, ”said Shiv Visvanathan, author and social scientist.
“Trudeau will always like to respond to the Indian constituency which is his electoral bloc. Every time he raises it he gets more points. This gives him the image of a human rights activist. It shows his concerns for his Indian constituency and also shows an immediate awareness to his constituents that he knows what is going on in India at this point.
Journalist and political commentator Paranjoy Guha Thakurta supported the Canadian Prime Minister.
“It is not because he is the head of the government of Canada that what he says is incorrect and it is also fortuitous that a large number of immigrants from the Punjab have settled in Canada. What Trudeau is saying: we must respect, in a democracy, the right of individuals to demonstrate in a public space, ”he said.
If the Modi government had “respected the wishes of the farmers, had not rushed into the enactment of these three agricultural laws in parliament, without adequate consultation with the various stakeholders, they would not be in the mess they are.” currently, ”Thakurta said.