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LONDON: Several British MPs have called for human rights provisions to be included in any future trade deal with India, after debating in the House of Commons the persecution being experienced by minorities.
MPs from various parties — including the Conservatives — took part in the backbench debate on Tuesday on the persecution of Muslims, Christians and other minority groups in India.
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 topics discussed included stigmatization of Muslims as “bio-terrorists” and “corona-jihadists” following an event in Delhi at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the spread of anti-conversion laws, the rise of religious nationalist vigilante groups, growing mob violence, the “stripping of citizenship rights” via the NRC in Assam and CAA, the burning of bibles and attacks on Christians and the targeting of Sikhs in the farmers’ protests.
Shannon cited examples of attacks on Christians such as on February 3, 2019, when a 40-strong mob attacked a church in Karkeli village, near Raipur leading to 15 worshippers being hospitalised. “Much of the violence against minorities is not appropriately investigated by government authorities,” he said.
“Powered by the anti-conversion laws and often with the police’s complicity, right-wing groups conduct campaigns of harassment, social exclusion and violence against Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities,” he said.
Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh said: “True friendship requires not turning a blind eye to each other’s faults, and we must protest persecution in India today.”
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.”
“In 2004, a Catholic, Sonia Gandhi, facilitated the handover of power to a Sikh, Manmohan Singh, enabling him to become Prime Minister, with his oath of office overseen by a Muslim President, APJ Abdul Kalam,” pointed out Conservative MP Theresa Villiers.
But not all the MPs were comfortable with the UK Parliament debating India’s internal matters. The High Commission of India in London had sent out briefs to those attending to try and address any “misinformation” ahead of the debate.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who was awarded the Padma Shri in January last year, said he had been inundated with letters from Indian-origin constituents outraged the debate was going ahead.