UK MPs press for answers on Delhi violence

Updated Mar 05 2020

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Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi addressing the UK parliament. — Photo courtesy The Independent
Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi addressing the UK parliament. — Photo courtesy The Independent

LONDON: While raising concern over recent violence in Delhi that resulted in loss of over 45 lives, Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom have pressed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to share the details of its engagement with the Indian government on this subject.

Sikh MPs Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Preet Gill Kaur are the latest UK lawmakers to join the chorus of criticism against the Indian government’s handling of the Delhi carnage.

While asking an urgent question of the representatives of the FCO in Parlia­ment, Labour MP for Slough Dhesi said the violence in Delhi in recent days “brings back painful memories”.

“[I have witnessed it] as a religious minority during the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs, while I was studying in India. Mr Speaker, we must learn from history, not be fooled by those whose insidious aim is to divide society, [and who are] hell-bent on killing and destroying religious places, all in the name of religion. I ask the Minister, what message has he given to his Indian counterpart [regarding] that persecution of Indian Muslims?”

Labour MP for Edgbaston, Birmingham, Preet Gill Kaur also asked: “Can the minister explain what steps he is taking to ensure all ethnic and religious minorities in India are able to feel safe and secure and free from persecution?”

Violence in New Delhi erupted over India’s disputed new citizenship law that led to clashes in which hundreds were injured and houses, shops, mosques, schools and vehicles were set on fire. Tensions between Hindu hardliners and Muslims protesting the Hindu-first policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had been building for months when the violence exploded a week ago, on the eve of US President Donald Trump’s state visit to India.

Another Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood, also questioned what the UK government was doing in response to the riots in Delhi.

MP Mahmood said the riots were “sickening” and warned that the Indian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 would be followed by a National Register of Citizens that would lead Muslims being “held in concentration camps” before being deported.

He said Modi’s actions were translating his ‘India for the Hindus’ slogan into a “hateful nationalist brutality”. He told the House that the Muslims were beaten and murdered in the streets while the police did nothing and “Modi cynically counts the benefits of electoral success”.

In response to these questions, Minister of State at FCO Nigel Adams said: “The Hon Member speaks very powerfully from personal experience. It is absolutely essential that we speak up where we believe abuses have taken place and when protest crosses the line into illegalities.

He added: “The British high commission in New Delhi and our extensive diplomatic network of deputy high commissions across India are monitoring closely the recent violence in India and developments around the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019”.

“The events in Delhi last week were very concerning, and the situation is still tense. The death of one protester is one too many. We urge restraint from all parties and trust that the Indian government will address the concerns of people of all religions in India”.

Labour MPs are not alone in calling out the violence in Delhi and urging the British government to do more. Paul Bristow, Conservative MP for Peterborough and Tommy Sheppard, the Scottish National Party MP for Edinburgh East, both have asked the FCO to share details on its position on Delhi riots and the CAA.

On Twitter, Conservative MP for Wycombe Steve Baker urged the UK Foreign Office and Dominic Raab to make Kashmir a top priority for the UK and the world. Baker has been vocal about his engagement with Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Nafees Zakariya and has said that British Kashmiri’s are entitled to “robust representation” on the issues of violence as a result of shelling in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2020