In response to the US remarks, the government on Thursday compared the violent protests against its farm reforms to the rioting by the supporters of former President Donald Trump at the Capitol Hill last month.
A spokesperson of the US State Department had told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the Joe Biden administration recognises “that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy, and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same. We encourage that any differences between the parties be resolved through dialogue”.
Though the spokesperson also said that “in general, the United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment,” he reprimanded the Indian government over the suspension of internet services in and around some farmers’ protest sites.
“We recognise that unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy,” he had said.
On Thursday, during his weekly briefing, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that it has taken note of the US State Department’s statement on the agriculture reforms and the ongoing protests.
He pointed out how the protesters resorted to violence at Red Fort on India’s Republic Day on January 26, undermining the country’s law and order and the tricolour.
The spokesperson compared it to the Capitol Hill violence and said that both the incidents were “part of vibrant democracies”.
The ministry in a statement issued on Wednesday had explained that the Parliament of India, after full debate and discussion, had passed the reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector. “These reforms give expanded market access and provide greater flexibility to the farmers. They also pave the way for economically and ecologically sustainable farming,” it said.
The government also said that a very small section of farmers in parts of India have some reservations about these reforms.
“Respecting the sentiments of the protesters, the government of India has initiated a series of talks with their representatives. Union ministers have been part of the negotiations, and 11 rounds of talks have already been held. The government has even offered to keep the laws on hold, an offer iterated by no less than the Prime Minister of India,” it said.
The ministry said, “Yet, it is unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests, and derail them. This was egregiously witnessed on January 26, India’s Republic Day. A cherished national commemoration, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Constitution of India, was besmirched, and violence and vandalism took place in the Indian capital.
“Some of these vested interest groups have also tried to mobilise international support against India. Instigated by such fringe elements, Mahatma Gandhi statues have been desecrated in parts of the world. This is extremely disturbing for India and for civilised society everywhere.”
Indian police forces have handled these protests with utmost restraint. It may be noted that hundreds of men and women serving in the police have been physically attacked, and in some cases stabbed and seriously wounded, it said.
“We would like to emphasise that these protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse,” the government said.