The ‘farmer protests’ in India have managed to attract global attention. Elected representatives of western countries have found the protests fertile ground to strengthen support among their constituents. One such politician is Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, or Tan Dhesi as he is addressed sometimes, a Labour MP in the United Kingdom.
Tan Dhesi became a meme on the internet when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ‘misheard’ his question regarding the protests in India. Dhesi presented an extremely misleading picture of the protests but what grabbed attention was the expression on his face when Johnson said that tensions between India and Pakistan are for the governments of the two countries to settle.
Tan Dhesi here is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPGK). There have been financial transactions between the Pakistan Government and the APPGK in the past. In 2020, APPGK received between £31,501 and £33000 from Pakistan when its members paid a visit to the country and PoK. Their apparent objective was to support the right to ‘self-determination’ of Kashmiris and seek ‘justice’ for ‘human rights abuses’.
The APPGK had received around £12,000 from the Pakistan High Commission in London in 2018 for a trip to Pakistan and PoK the same year. Debbie Abrahams, who leads the group, had her VISA cancelled by Indian authorities and she was deported when she landed in India in 2020.
Tan Dhesi, of course, has been extremely critical of the Indian Government in the past as well and taken quite an adversarial stand. In the aftermath of the Delhi Riots, the Labour MP from Slough was part of a group of MPs that pressed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to share the details of the discussions it had held with Indian authorities regarding the matter.
Saying that the riots brought back “painful memories”, he asked, “[I have witnessed it] as a religious minority during the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs, while I was studying in India. Mr Speaker, we must learn from history, not be fooled by those whose insidious aim is to divide society, [and who are] hell-bent on killing and destroying religious places, all in the name of religion. I ask the Minister, what message has he given to his Indian counterpart [regarding] that persecution of Indian Muslims?”
More recently, in the first week of February, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi attended a ‘Kashmir Solidarity Conference’ organised by Tehreek-e-Kashmir United Kingdom (TeK UK) President Faheem Kayani through video link. More than 40 British MPs participated in the conference, Tan Dhesi was one of them.
During the conference, PoK President Sardar Masood Khan ranted against India and spread outright lies regarding the situation in Kashmir. He spread the usual canards that India is depriving Kashmiris of their civil rights and the ‘genocide’ of Kashmiris by the Indian Army.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi also has close ties with Khalistani outfit Sikh Federation UK. He had addressed a gathering at the SFUK National Convention as well. The same group had co-organised an event with the Sikh Network where Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was awarded a ‘lifetime achievement award’. One of the main Gurudwaras in Slough, Gurdwara Sri Singh Sabha, displays two large Khalistan banners. Dhesi addressed a gathering at the same main hall of the Gurudwara that displayed the Khalistan banners.
The Slough MP had come out in support Jeremy Corbyn following the latter’s adverse comments against India following the abrogation of Article 370. Complimenting Corbyn, he had said, “We cannot remain silent in the face of human rights abuses. We need to stand in solidarity with the #Kashmiri people in their hour of need.” Few days later, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had met the Labour and immediately expressed regret afterwards.
The RSS, naturally, has been one of his targets as well. He said in 2019, “The RSS doesn’t want me to be in parliament because we fearlessly speak for human rights. They are spreading hate against the Labour party particularly the members who are raising their voice against the brutalities and violations of human rights either in Kashmir, Palestine, Myanmar or any other part of the world.”
He went on to say that he will not be “blackmailed” by the BJP and RSS. “I will continue without fear. I don’t care being on the target list of BJP and RSS. I will continue to speak up for the right causes. It’s our duty to speak up for the rights of people in Kashmir, Myanmar and Palestine.”
According to reports, Dhesi attacked India at a Referendum 2020 rally, a Khalistani Movement, organised by the banned terrorist outfit Sikhs for Justice. He has been extremely vocal about the current ‘farmer protests’ as well. He wrote in a tweet on the 11th of February, “Over 100,000, incredibly from all 650 #UK constituencies (inc 3K+ from Slough), signed online petition; adding to 100+ MPs who wrote to PM. Given arrests of journalists and activists like #NodeepKaur, need Parliament debate ASAP on #FarmersProtest –largest protest on the planet.”
Thus, given his affiliations, it is not really surprising that he has come out in support of the ‘farmer protests’ in India. The protests have served as a platform for Khalistanis around the world to orchestrate a global campaign against India, many intricate details of which were exposed by the Greta toolkit.