Here's what you need to know about the Brampton protests against India's new farm laws
Hundreds of thousands of farmers have descended upon India's capital city this week to raise their voices against new laws that are being widely panned as exploitive and unfair to agricultural workers — only to be met with inexcusable human rights violations.
Despite being entirely peaceful, the protests in New Delhi are being "handled" with police batons, water cannons and tear gas, among other violent tactics, sparking further outrage among farmers and outcry from advocates all over the world.
What started as a protest among farmers from the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana has now exploded into a global denunciation of not only agricultural deregulation in India, but of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government itself.
"The situation is concerning and we're all very worried about families and friends," said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday of what's happening in New Delhi.
"Canada will also be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that's why we've reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns."
Trudeau's remarks received swift backlash from Indian politicians, but protesters remain undeterred both at home and abroad.
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Toronto Tuesday evening to show their support for the beleaguered independent farmers of India, who fear that the country's new laws will destroy their already-precarious livelihoods.
After raising awareness with a protest convoy down the Gardiner Expressway, they staged a large rally in Nathan Phillips Square to call for justice and champion the rights of farmers to earn a fair living.
Similar protests have taken place in recent days all over Brampton, Ontario, which boasts one of the largest South Asian communities in Canada.
Farmers Protest in brampton canada pic.twitter.com/Lfrvyxa05B— Khush bains (@BainsKhush) November 30, 2020
Carrying signs that read "No Farmers, No Food" and "Justice for Farmers," supporters have gathered by the dozens in public spaces across the city of roughly 600,000 to voice their concerns over three farm bills passed in September.
"Firstly, they make it easier for farmers to bypass government-regulated markets (known locally as mandis) and sell produce directly to private buyers," explains Al Jazeera of the (de)regulations.
"The new regulations also allow traders to stockpile food. This is a shift away from prohibitions against hoarding, which could make it easier for traders to take advantage of rising prices, such as during a pandemic. Such practices were criminal offences under the old rules."
The #IStandWithFarmers movement is one of the biggest social movements in the world and it's not limited to India. The plight of the protesters resonates with the South Asian diaspora in Canada — and politicians seem to listening.— ahmarskhan (@AhmarSKhan) December 1, 2020
Me for @NatObserver https://t.co/VvJ6tpW4eW
Demonstrations against the controversial farming bills have been taking place intermittently in Brampton since September, but only recently have the protests peaked in terms of size and intensity.
"I've heard from many of my constituents in #Brampton, expressing their concerns about the safety of relatives in the #FarmersProtest in India," wrote Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown in a statement on Saturday.
"The fundamental right to peaceful protest is the cornerstone of any democracy. I hope the rights of the protestors are respected."
Thanks Mr. Mayor of Brampton where majority of the people from Punjab live in the city for expressing your concern of our brothers in Punjab and support of peaceful protest against the new law against Indian farmers. #FarmersProtest #FarmersDelhiProtest ##FarmersBill2020 https://t.co/aSGwxQysiQ— sukhdev thapar (@ThaparSukhdev) November 29, 2020
Local politicians are now going beyond simply calling for the rights of protesters to be respected, however.
Brampton city councillor Gurpreet Singh Dhillon asked the National Farmers Union of Canada on Tuesday to stand in solidarity with Indian farmers and their families here in Canada.
He didn't have to ask the City of Brampton for such support, as council already unanimously passed his motion urging them to do so in October.
In October, Brampton Council unanimously passed my motion to support those affected by Indian farm bills.— Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (@gurpreetdhillon) December 2, 2020
Today, I requested the @NFUcanada to show solidarity with their Indian brothers and sisters in need.
Farmers are our backbone. We must all do our part to support them 🙏 pic.twitter.com/MIohiplzkZ
"In September, three new federal farming bills were passed: The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Act; Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Service Act; and the Essential Commodities Act," reads Dhillon's letter.
"The passing of these acts will result in the privatization of farmers markets in India, which means farmers will no longer be eligible for the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) that they were once guaranteed for their crops."
"The new legislation will leave farmers at the mercy of large corporations because most farmers do not have the means to bargain with them for a fair price," Dhillon continues. "This will ultimately destroy the livelihoods and sovereignty of farmers across India."
Brampton MPP Gurattan Singh speaking up for farmers in Punjab and India in Ontario parliament. pic.twitter.com/ixGEgT7FTV— bik nanar (@bsnanar) November 29, 2020
Reflecting the sentiments of protesters in New Dehli and elsewhere, Dhillon pointed out that "farmers are the backbone of our society and we must all do our part to support them."
According to his successful motion calling upon the City of Brampton to stand in solidarity with those who have been affected, the country's agriculture sector employs nearly half of its 1.3 billion people, but contributes only 15 per cent to the $2.9 billion Indian economy.
"Eighty-six per cent of Indian farmers only own two or less acres of farmland with an average income of $1,400 per year, and do not have the means to bargain with large, private corporations," reads the motion.
"Anti-farmer policies, debt, and a deteriorating financial status have led to 363,726 farmers and farm labourers committing suicide between 1995 and 2019."
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