Amid renewed international attention on the two-month-long farmers' protest in India, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or OHCHR on Friday called on both the government and the demonstrators to exercise maximum restraint.
"We call on the authorities and protesters to exercise maximum restraint in ongoing #FarmersProtests. 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," the OHCHR tweeted.
#India: We call on the authorities and protesters to exercise maximum restraint in ongoing #FarmersProtests. 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.— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 5, 2021
Angry at what they see as legislation that benefits private buyers at the expense of growers, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi since November, calling for the withdrawal of laws introduced in September.
The farmers say the laws mean the end of long-standing support prices for their crops and will leave them vulnerable to the whims of big buyers. They are demanding that the laws be annulled.
The government says reform of the inefficient agriculture sector will open up new opportunities for farmers and while it has offered some concessions, it has ruled out withdrawing the laws. To curb the protests, it has suspended internet in the areas and laid vast road barricades and spikes.
The protests have been largely peaceful but flared into turmoil on January 26 as some farmers clashed with police in Delhi after sections of their Republic Day tractor parade strayed from agreed routes and one person was killed and hundreds were injured.
To the government's annoyance, the protests have drawn increasing international scrutiny, with celebrities including pop star Rihanna and environment campaigner Greta Thunberg announcing their support for the farmers.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told parliament on Friday farmers were being "misled" and that the government was committed to finding a solution.
After the violence last month, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was important to respect peaceful protests, freedom of assembly and non-violence. Earlier in December, his office had said people have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities should let them do so.