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Minreet Kaur: UK Sikhs Want Parliament Debate After Farmers Protest Petition Passes 100,000 Signatures
In the UK, any official petition with over 10,000 signatures receives a government response, and any over 100,000 signatures are considered for debate in Parliament
February 11, 2021 | 3 min. read
In the freezing cold, camping out on highways at the outskirts of Delhi, farmers are peacefully protesting as the Modi government push through three new agricultural laws. The agitation is gaining mainstream international traction as the Indian state violently crackdowns on demonstrators, commits human rights abuses, and suppresses the free press.
With the help of growing social media activism in support of the farmers’ protest, the Boris Johnson government - which has largely been mute on the issue to date - found themselves served with an e-petition signed by more than 100,000 residents via the UK Parliament’s official petition website.
In the UK, any official petition with over 10,000 signatures receives a government response, and any over 100,000 signatures are considered for debate in Parliament.
Gurcharn Singh kick-started the petition, “I was appalled by what’s happening in India right now. It is absolutely heart-breaking. To see peaceful protesters being openly attacked by officials, in public, is shocking and these actions, which have no place in modern society, should be condemned”, he continues, “what’s more, the journalists who are reporting facts on the events as they unfold are being arrested and detained. Speaking with many people living here with families in India who shared concerns I felt compelled to do something.”
He knew the community would rally behind the petition, including in counties with large Sikh and Punjabi populations, and wants a full debate in Parliament, “the support from the British public has been overwhelming and currently we have over 114,000 signatures. My initial aim was simply to raise this issue to trigger a response from the government who has been silent.”
Support for the farmers’ protest has been coming from every corner of the UK Sikh community and expectations are high that the Parliament Petition Committee will move forward with a debate.
Bally Singh, the owner of the well known Rich List Group, has gone as far as to write a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “I want the world to understand this is not about Sikhs, Hindus or Muslims, this about the farmers of India. We are heroes when we fight on India’s borders but we become terrorists when we stand-up against injustices, how does that work?”
Grassroots UK organisations like Khalsa Aid, Sikh Assembly, and Midland Langar Sewa have been on the ground for months now to support farmers outside Delhi, garnering global recognition. Khalsa Aid has been recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Tony Singh, of BritAsia TV, has been watching the agitation closely and hopes that the UK government will speak up on this in Parliament now, “it's the farmlands that brought our forefathers to this country which in return kept Punjab alive by sending money back home. So it's in our DNA. It is our right to stand up for our mother soil that feeds the rest of India.”
Local university student Aman Kaur Kalkat, alongside Karam Singh Rai, started a campaign in educating and pushing UK universities to support the farmers’ protest as well, “we have constructed an open letter to our university asking them to recognize the farmers’ struggle and support their right to protest peacefully. We were pleased with their response as our Students’ Union has pledged to communicate with local MPs and encourage them to speak on the matter in Parliament as well as raise awareness within the student body. We took these actions because we not have strong family connections in India and want to use our position as students to support the farmers as best as we can.”
While many UK Sikhs feel the government has not done enough on the issue, they hope the petition will change that.
Minreet Kaur is award-winning freelance journalist based in the UK. Daughter of the legendary skipping Sikh which won report of the year in 2020. She has written for BBC, Sky, The Independent, HuffPost, Al Jazeera, and The Tribune. She writes about religion, culture, communities, and human rights. You find Minreet on Twitter at @minkaur5.
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