Reflection: Diaspora Dialogues (India)

February 28, 2021

By: Guneet Pooni - VANCOUVER

Kisaan Mazdoor Morcha (Farmer’s Protests): What’s Happening and Why We Care

Across the globe, the South Asian diaspora has been glued to the news, watching as over 250 million farmers, labourers, workers, and activists protest on the streets of New Delhi.

Protestors are calling for Modi’s government to repeal the three new anti-farming laws. These include the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act, Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities Act.

The diaspora isn’t just sitting still, they’ve mobilized -- holding rallies, calling on their representatives to speak out, and raising awareness through social media, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Manveer Singh, a first-generation Punjabi-Canadian living on the Unceded Territories of the Katsie, Semiahmoo, Kwantlen, and Tsawwassen First Nations came on the second session of Diaspora Dilagues to break down what’s happening on the ground in India.

The Anti-Farming Laws:

Neither farmers nor farming organizations were consulted in the creation of these laws. Modi’s government has framed them as reform laws, created to help farmers, but in reality, these laws are harmful to the livelihoods of farmers and labourers.

Farming in India is done on a small-scale. Families farm together and sell their produce to the general market through a mandi system. This system buys the raw products, so farmers do not have to worry about storage or packaging. Under the new laws, the mandi system and the minimum support price (MSP) would no longer exist. MSP is a minimum federally mandated price on certain crops that are given to the farmers and has government oversight. Without this, corporations can set the price at whatever they want.

This model is not new either, it was introduced in Bihar where its plementation has devastated the farming economy.

Delhi Chalo:

Farmers and labourers had been protesting in Punjab and other regions for months but decided they needed to march to Delhi to make their concerns heard.

On Nov 26, 2020, the world witnessed the largest organized protest in human history as farmers, labourers, and workers from across India, predominantly from Punjab and Haryana marched to the border of Delhi.

After months of protesting and sit-downs with the government, Modi had not agreed on repeal the laws. So on January 26th, 2021, India’s 72nd Republic Day protestors led a tractor march into Delhi. Again, protestors were met with violence, and later a misinformation campaign against them was produced by “Godi” media.

Since November, protesters have been met with extreme violence from law enforcement, there have been blockades, baton charges, water cannons, and media blackouts. There have been reports of abductions and torture in prisons.

Despite this, farmers are still feeding the country. They have set up a system where families will sit in the protest for a few weeks then go back home and switch with another group. While they are away, their neighbours help maintain their land.

As of February, farmers, labourers, and activists are still protesting and showing just how resilient they are.

The Diaspora:

If your ancestors were farmers, you may be thinking about how you fit into this movement. Might be wondering what it means for you, for your family. You haven’t traced your roots back to the homeland, regardless, you feel a little helpless, sitting in your home so far away, yearning for a place many of us have only visited once or twice.

Your role is to continue the work your doing.

Some things to keep in mind for diaspora youth:

It’s important to amplify what the protestors are saying and not stray away from the message. Since the beginning of the movement, there have been many incidents of selective activism and Twitter wars regarding sexism, castism, and anti-Blackness. All non-Black folks are complicit in the oppression of Black people. There is no need to take away from Black Lives Matter -- we must stand in solidary. All of this takes away from the farmer’s narrative, causing more harm to the movement.

Kisaan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabaad.