New Delhi: Several British lawmakers on Tuesday flayed the persecution of Muslims, Christian and other minority groups in India. Speaking in the UK parliament, they called on the British government to include human rights clauses in any future trade deal with India.
”True friendship requires not turning a blind eye to each other’s faults and we must protest persecution of minorities in India,” Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh said.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Jim Shannon called on the UK government ”to ensure that robust human rights provisions are included in any future trade and investment agreement.”
”Violations of freedom of religious belief lead to domestic conflict, which is good neither for India’s economic prosperity, nor for the chances of a stable, long-term trading relationship between India and the UK,” he said.
The debate focused on issues like maligning of Muslims using pejorative terms like ”bio-terrorists” and corona-jihadis” during the lockdown in India, the spread of anti-conversion laws targeting Muslim youth, the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) discriminating against Muslims, burning of bibles, attacks on churches and mosques and targetting of Sikh farmers exercising their democratic right of peaceful protest against contentious farm laws.
Shanon brought up the mob attack on Christians that took place in February last year near Raipur as he alleged, ”much of the violence against minorities is not appropriately investigated by government authorities.”
Minister for Asia Nigel Adams, said: ”India faces challenges in enforcing its constitutional protections for freedom of religion or belief. We look to the government of India to address these concerns.”
Theresa Villiers, a conservative member lauded how in 2004 Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, a catholic, facilitated handover of power to Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, who took oath as prime minister administered by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a Muslim.
Some MPs took exception to the debate about what they said was India’s internal matter.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner said he had received letters from Indians in the UK who were outraged by the debate. ”People in India might not regard our intervention as welcome or appropriate,” he said. Gardiner is the recipient of Padmashree, a civilian award conferred by the Indian government.
The Indian High Commissioner reportedly had sent briefs to participating lawmakers to try to counter ”misinformation” emanating from the debate.