Farm unions plan ‘global’ protests against new laws
“Anti-capitalists of the world, unite” — a rephrasing of Marx’s iconic slogan “workers of the world, unite” — will reverberate in at least 10 global cities on December 26 in response to a call given by farm unions, who are coordinating plans for a global protest against three agricultural laws pushed by the Narendra Modi government.
Farm leaders say there will be no dearth of protesters from the Indian diaspora. A plethora of anti-Walmarters and opposers of big corporations in the US and elsewhere, apart from independent farmers’ organisations, are also ready to respond to their call , they said.
Cities where demonstrators have confirmed participation include global financial hubs, New York, Sydney and London. Protests have also been planned in other overseas towns and cities including Leicester in the UK, Sacramento, Calif., Houston, Melbourne and Ontario.
The standoff between the Union government and farmers continues over the passage of new legislation to open up the country’s antiquated agricultural sector to private investment, a move the government says will enable farmers better incomes and modernize the farm sector. Farmers say the reforms will leave them at the mercy of private corporations. The Modi government has repeatedly said it is inclined to find a solution through discussions, which ended in a stalemate on December 8.
The global protest is part of a five-point agenda drawn up to take the agitation forward, said Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India, a leader of the agitation.
“We had made five big announcements,” he said.
“One, on December 21, there will be a relay hunger strike. Two, on 23rd, on Kisan Day, we urge everyone to skip one meal in remembrance of our farmers.”
“Three, on 26th and 27th, we will write to National Democratic Alliance’s allies to withdraw support to the laws. Four, on these both days, we have called all Indians abroad to stage demonstrations in front of Indian embassies and consulates. Five, during the next Mann Ki Baat(radio address) of the PM, farmers will bang thalis (utensils),” Yadav said.
To be sure, the call of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the platform of protesting farm union, is limited to the Indian diaspora only, according to its protest programme.
But foreign entities opposed to big corporations are ready to join in. “Big corporations have common global policies that hurt interests of consumers and small growers,” said Anastasia Elliot of Walmart Watch, a Washington-based non-government organisation.
“So, anti-capitalists of the world must unite to protect larger interests of society whether in developed or developing countries. We support Indian farmers,” she said over the phone on Monday.
A section of the Indian Sikh diaspora has already carried out large protests in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.
Mewa Singh, the head of Non-Resident Indian Council in Punjab’s Ropar, said his office was coordinating with Indians abroad on making the protests global.
“My son, a resident of Texas, Houston, will lead the protests there,” he said.
Sikhs make up 1.4% of Canada’s population, but their close knit community is an influential voting bloc.
“We stand by Punjab’s farmers because that’s who our forefathers were,” said Banda Singh, a resident of Brampton, Ontario.
Indians abroad are also sending political petitions to their lawmakers.
India recently summoned Canada’s high commissioner to convey its strong displeasure following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that Indian farmers had a right to protest.
The Canadian envoy in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, was told clearly that India considers such statements as “unacceptable interference” in the country’s internal affairs and these actions, if they continued, will have a “seriously damaging” impact on the ties.
However, the possibilities of the farmers’ protests metamorphosing into a fresh global backlash are distinct.
“The Indian government has used disproportionate force on peacefully protesting farmers. We will protest in front of parliament building on December 26,” said Sukhdev Gill, a dairy worker in Australia’s Victoria.