Farm law protests: Thousands hit streets in London, many arrested for breaching Covid-19 protocols

Several people were arrested in London as thousands gathered outside the Indian High Commission on Sunday in support of the farmers protesting against the farm laws in India, reported.

The Metropolitan Police said that 13 people were arrested for breaching the coronavirus guidelines. Four of them were let go after they provided their details to the police officers and were fined. The police had said that strict regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus remain in place and therefore demonstrations of more than 30 people risk arrests and fines.

Police officers in face masks were seen asking people to disperse from the “We stand with farmers of Punjab” demonstration. The demonstration, comprising mainly British Sikhs, saw placards that read “Justice for Farmers” and sloganeering as well as several cars blocking roads. Few demonstrators wore face masks and little physical distancing was maintained, according to NDTV.

The police said that they confiscated firecrackers from three teenagers after they were seen setting them off at the crowd. The teenagers were, however, not arrested.

“We had issued a reminder urging those who were planning to attend to reconsider but, unfortunately, a number of people decided not to follow that advice,” Metropolitan Police Commander Paul Brogden said. “A proportionate policing plan was in place, the demonstration has now concluded and those in attendance have begun to leave.”

Brogden urged those planning to come to the Aldwych area for the demonstrations to reconsider. “I would also encourage anyone who is currently in attendance to leave the area,” he said. “Our officers will take the appropriate action where necessary.”

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An Indian High Commission spokesperson claimed that separatists were part of the demonstrations. “It soon became clear that the gathering was led by anti-India separatists who had taken the opportunity of the protests in India to ostensibly back the farmers in India but use the opportunity to pursue their own anti-India agenda,” the spokesperson said.

The High Commission reiterated the government’s stance that the protests in India is part of its internal democratic process. “It is [a] work in progress in our functioning democracy,” the spokesperson said. “The government of India is in talks with the protestors which are still ongoing. Needless to say, it is an internal issue of India.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office backed the Indian government’s stance. “The police handling of protests are a matter for the government of India,” its spokesperson said.

The Indian mission in the UK said it has briefed the interlocutors in the UK government and Parliament on the features of the farming sector reforms initiated by India.

Last week, 36 British MPs wrote a letter to United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to raise their concern with India over the farm law protests. The Foreign Office said that it was yet to receive the letter.

The Parliament had passed three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment Ordinance 2020 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

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Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for over ten days, demanding the government should abolish the new legislations. They fear the new policies could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.

The Centre, which claims the laws would revitalise India’s agrarian economy by boosting produce, has made several attempts to placate the farmers. But five rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse so far. The agitation continued and another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.

Farm law protests: Thousands hit streets in London, many arrested for breaching Covid-19 protocols