US State Department says peaceful protests and unhindered internet access are ‘hallmark of any thriving democracy’.
India’s foreign ministry has compared the storming of the historic Red Fort complex by protesting farmers in New Delhi on January 26 to the violence at the United States’ Capitol Hill earlier this year by the supporters of former US President Donald Trump.
Tens of thousands of protesting farmers broke police barricades to storm the Mughal-era fort, with many climbing onto its ramparts to wave farm union and religious flags in the location where prime ministers annually hoist the national flag to mark the country’s independence.
Thousands more farmers marched on foot or rode on horseback while shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the protests had “evoked similar sentiments and reactions” as the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, which took place during a deadly demonstration by Trump’s supporters on January 6.
Five people, including a police officer, were killed in the Capitol violence after Trump urged his supporters “to fight” as the US Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
“The incidents of violence and vandalism at the historic Red Fort on the 26th of January have evoked similar sentiments and reactions in India, as did the incidents on the Capitol Hill on the 6th of January and are being addressed as per respective local laws,” said India’s foreign ministry spokesman Srivastava.
The ministry’s remarks came shortly after the US embassy in New Delhi on Thursday urged India’s government to resume “dialogue” with the protesting farmers.
“We encourage that any differences between the parties be resolved through dialogue,” a US embassy spokesperson said in a statement that also offered general support for the government’s efforts to “improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment”.
On Wednesday, a US State Department spokesperson said peaceful protests and unhindered access to the internet are “fundamental to freedom of expression” and the “hallmark of any thriving democracy”, referring to the internet blackout at protest sites by the Indian authorities.
The foreign ministry’s comments also came as Modi’s administration criticised celebrity support of the farmer protests by pop singer Rihanna and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, among others.
Indian police on Thursday said they are also investigating a protest “toolkit” shared by Thunberg on Twitter, while a right-wing Hindu group held a demonstration in New Delhi against the remarks made by foreign celebrities.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of farmers remain camped at the Indian capital’s fringes to continue the months-long protest against new agricultural laws they say will leave them poorer and at the mercy of corporations.
The protests that began in November are posing a huge challenge to Modi who has billed the laws as necessary to modernise Indian farming.