Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on December 9.(AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on December 9.(AFP)

Boris misheard question, says office after he terms farmer protest an India-Pak issue

The widely reported exchange between Johnson and Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi evoked strong responses on social media.
Hindustan Times, London | By Prasun Sonwalkar , edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON DEC 10, 2020 07:00 PM IST

Prime Minister Boris Johnson “misheard” a question on the farmers’ protests in India during Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and responded incorrectly that it was a matter for India and Pakistan to resolve, his office clarified.

The widely reported exchange between Johnson and Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi evoked strong responses on social media.

A government spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister clearly misheard the question in parliament... The Foreign Office are following the issue of protests in India closely.”

Dhesi had asked if Johnson could convey to Prime Minister Narendra Modi the anxieties in the UK about images of police action against the protesting farmers in and around Delhi.

Dhesi said: “Many constituents, especially those emanating from the Punjab and other parts of India, and I were horrified to see footage of water cannons, tear gas and brute force being used against peacefully protesting farmers.”

“However, it was heart-warming to see those very farmers feeding those forces who had been ordered to beat or suppress them…what indomitable spirit…it takes a special kind of people to do that”.

“So will the prime minister convey to the Indian prime minister our heart-felt anxieties, our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock, and does he agree that everyone has the fundamental right to peaceful protest”, he asked.

To this, Johnson had responded: “Of course, Mr Speaker, and our views as the honourable gentleman knows well, of course, we have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle and I know that he appreciates that point”.

The exchange came days after the Foreign Office had refused to comment on the farmers’ agitation, when its spokesperson said: “The police handling of protests are a matter for the Government of India.”

Dhesi last week coordinated a letter signed by 36 MPs from various parties to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, asking him to raise the farmers’ issue with the Indian government. A protest demonstration was held outside the Indiann high commission on Sunday.

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