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India summons UK envoy over MP's 'unwarranted' comments on farmers' protests, slams 'gross interference' in its politics

India summons UK envoy over MP's 'unwarranted' comments on farmers' protests, slams 'gross interference' in its politics
The foreign secretary of India has summoned the UK's ambassador to New Delhi in response to British MPs highlighting alleged human rights abuses during mass farmer protests against Indian agricultural reforms.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla expressed his opposition to the "unwarranted and tendentious comments" from British politicians, India's Ministry of External Affairs said, in a statement on Tuesday announcing the summons.

British MPs' discussions amounted to a "gross interference" in Indian affairs, the statement continued, adding that they should avoid "vote bank politics" by misrepresenting events in India.

The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP government introduced three new laws in September 2020 reforming the country's agricultural system.

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Critics, however, say the new legislation does not guarantee minimum support prices for farmers' goods – potentially opening the door for large corporations to exploit them.

Millions of people across India, including tens of thousands of farmers on tractors, have protested against the laws since they came into effect, with Punjab seeing the most intense demonstrations.

New Delhi's anger at Britain comes after MPs in Westminster debated the protests on Monday, following a public petition to parliament calling on London to urge Modi's government to "ensure safety of protestors and press freedom."

A cross-party group of British MPs said the Indian government's response to farmers had resulted in suicides, deaths at the hands of security forces, and violence against women and the elderly.

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Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was among the group, and described some of the violence reportedly committed against protesters as "unprecedented."

He also criticized the Indian government's restrictions on media, internet and mobile-phone access in an alleged bid to clamp down on the protests.

Another MP called for the UK government to impose sanctions on Modi and his BJP government, including asset seizures and a ban on the PM and his representatives from entering the UK.

The High Commission of India in London had earlier condemned the MPs' comments, accusing them in a statement of making "false assertions – without substantiation or facts."

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