India has denounced Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “ill-informed” remarks regarding an ongoing farmers’ protest in India’s capital.
Trudeau and Conservative opposition leader Erin O’Toole both made comments this week expressing concern over India’s response to the demonstrations.
“Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest,” Trudeau said after Indian police used anti-riot methods on the farmers.
Thousands of farmers have been camping outside New Delhi for a week now, protesting against controversial agricultural reforms.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the laws and accused opposition parties of misleading the farmers, who have dubbed the bills “anti-farmer”. His government says the new laws will bring much-needed private investment to the crisis-hit agricultural sector.
Protesters were met last week with barricades and clashes erupted between farmers and police. Photos and video of the encounters show authorities using tear gas and water cannons to stop the farmers from entering the city.
Farmers are now being escorted by police to a protest site where they are expected to continue demonstrating against the reforms.
Speaking on Monday at a celebration of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, Trudeau mentioned the protests.
Canada is home to a large Indian population, mostly from Punjab state where many of the protesting farmers live. The 2016 census reported close to two million South Asian Canadians.
“We’re all very worried about family and friends,” he said during the virtual celebration. “We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”
His remarks were echoed by Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole, who called the right to peacefully protest “fundamental” to democracy.
On Tuesday, India’s foreign ministry spokesman responded to the “ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders”.
Anurag Srivastava said, “Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country.”
Politicians from the UK, US and Australia have expressed their solidarity with the Indian farmers over the past few days and criticised the Modi government’s handling of the biggest protests in years.