Farmer protest shows need for consultations on laws with those concerned, says UN human rights chief

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday commented on the farmers’ protest against the new agricultural laws, suggesting that the agitations highlight the importance of ensuring that legislations are based on meaningful consultations with stakeholders, the Hindustan Times reported.

“In India, continued protests by hundreds of thousands of farmers highlight the importance of ensuring laws and policies are based on meaningful consultations with those concerned,” in her address at the 46th Session of UN Human Rights Council.

Bachelet also spoke critically against charges of sedition against journalists and activists for reporting or commenting on the protests, terming them as “attempts to curb freedom of expression on social media”. She said such actions were “disturbing departures from essential human rights principles”, according to the Hindustan Times.

The U body chief said that they were monitoring the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, “where restrictions on communications, and clampdowns on civil society activists, remain of concern”.

“Raids against human rights defenders in October and November “exemplify the continued restrictions on civil society,” she said, according to Print.

Meanwhile Indra Mani Pandey, The permanent representative of India to the United Nations, in his address countered, saying Bachelet’s comments lacked “objectivity and impartiality”, ANI reported.

Making a note of the Centre’s announcement of doubling farmers’ income by 2024, he claimed that the new farm laws will enable them “to realise better price for their produce and enhance their income”. As for the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, he said that the decision to abrogate the erstwhile state’s special status was “welcomed by the people of India”.

“Given these developments, we were perplexed to note some of the comments made by the High Commissioner,” Pandey said, referring to Bachelet. Referring to the violence that erupted on January 26, Pandey said: “Unprovoked violence on our Republic Day in name of farmers’ rights, apparently, left her [Bachelet] unmoved. Her indifference to terrorism is, of course, not new.”

The farmers’ protests had largely been peaceful but violence erupted on January 26, when a tractor rally planned to coincide with Republic Day celebrations turned chaotic. More than 100 protestors were arrested in connection with the violence and several are missing.

The protest

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for three months now, seeking the withdrawal of the agricultural laws passed in September.

The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The laws are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

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