It said the rights to peaceful assembly and expression ‘should be protected both offline and online’.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday urged both the Indian government and the farmers against the new agriculture laws to exercise maximum restraint.
“We call on the authorities and protesters to exercise maximum restraint in ongoing #FarmersProtests,” it tweeted. “The rights to peaceful assembly & expression should be protected both offline & online. It’s crucial to find equitable solutions with due respect to #HumanRights for all.”
On Thursday, the United States had urged the Narendra Modi government to resolve its differences with the farmers over the recently passed agriculture reforms through dialogue, saying that peaceful protests are a “hallmark of any thriving democracy”.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for over two months, seeking the repeal of agricultural laws passed in September. The protests had largely been peaceful but violence erupted on January 26, when a tractor rally planned to coincide with Republic Day celebrations turned chaotic.
Ever since, the Narendra Modi government has launched a crackdown on the demonstration. Police complaints against farmer leaders followed, as did arrest of hundreds of protestors and registration of first information reports against journalists.
The home ministry has also ordered a shutdown of internet services in the three border areas. Though the blockade was officially lifted on February 2, internet services at the protest sites continued to remain erratic.
The Delhi Police has put up elaborate arrangements – digging ditches, erecting concrete barricades and spreading razor wires across main roads at Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur borders of the Capital.
The clampdown on protestors has sparked international outrage. Western personalities, including pop singer Rihanna and teenaged climate activist Greta Thunberg, expressed support for farmers.
Tweets by these personalities set off a controversy, even eliciting a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday warning against the “temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments” about the new laws.
Shortly after, dozens of Indian sports people, actors and ruling party politicians took to Twitter to issue similar tweets aimed at countering the messages from Rihanna and the others.