28 Mar WHAT’S HAPPENING IN INDIA?
Indian cultures have always played a huge role in my life. Growing up in a city with a large Punjabi Sikh community, I have been lucky enough to have friends who let me be a part of their incredible cultural celebrations, from the largest Vaisakhi parade outside of India to intimate Diwali gatherings at home. Being Pakistani, there are also a number of shared cultural norms between the two countries that I have always been able to relate to. The protests going on in India have been on my mind a lot, as their impact on the people around me has been evident. A number of my friends have family back in India who are experiencing the repercussions of their current political atmosphere firsthand, and hearing their accounts shows how connected we really are to something that can initially seem far away.
Farmers in India have been protesting against a new set of laws introduced by the current government. These laws essentially remove what little state protections were in place to ensure farmers could make a living from their crops, for the sake of fostering a more privatized agricultural sector. These laws seem to be more in favor of private investors and corporations than they do the working class, as they run the risk of driving down prices in an economy where farmers were already struggling to begin with. These struggles have only been aggravated by the pandemic, which has also contributed to India having one of the highest farmer suicide rates in the world. In the face of such severe issues that were only going to be exacerbated by state measures, farmers were forced to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves.
Protests erupted across the country in November, with many marching to New Delhi, the capital city of India, demanding that the laws be repealed. They are still going on at this moment. One of the most troubling aspects of these events has been the government’s reaction to the protests in itself. In response to thousands of farmers peacefully exercising their democratic rights, the Modi government sent armed police that violently attacked protestors with batons, tear gas, and even rifles. This is sadly reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this summer and of various protests against authoritarian governments in countries that happen daily, such as those ongoing in Myanmar right now.
When events are occurring on the other side of the world, it can be easy to feel detached from their effects. However, living in diverse, multicultural communities means that it is easier than ever to hold direct connections to these events in ways we may not even realize at first glance. The key is to take the step of seeking them out and engaging with them. Near me, there have been a number of local protests and organizations that have stepped up to help farmers that are extremely accessible to get involved with. Whether that be going to a demonstration, donating, or supporting those on the front lines in other ways, there are always ways to contribute within your own means.
While finding ways to directly connect to such issues can make them easier to engage with, this does not mean that the absence of a connection is an excuse not to care. Grassroots movements such as this one are fundamentally created and work to advocate for ordinary people. Farmers deserve to have individual agency to determine their own livelihoods so that they can support themselves and their families. In turn, their work not only provides food for millions of people residing in India but millions more who consume their exported goods, including here in Canada. Too often, the needs of essential workers are left behind in pursuit of profits for elites, and this extends beyond the agricultural sector to apply to all those doing the work that the entire world depends on to survive.
Even more so, the principle behind what farmers in India are fighting for is extremely important- standing up for people’s best interests when the government refuses to do so. This is something that resonates across the globe, as people in countries everywhere are often forced to mobilize and advocate for their own interests when the government in power actively takes a stance to oppose them. The heart of the farmer’s protests in India are the groups who are the backbone of our societies standing up for themselves, and that is something people from all walks of life can stand in solidarity with.
Header image: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/926052742097588177/