India Farmers Protest: Follow Up

( Picture By: NDTV)

( Picture By: NDTV)

Sim Saini

The world’s largest democracy, India, is currently experiencing its largest protest: the farmers’ protest. The peaceful protest started back in November when farmers from various states, mainly Punjab and Haryana, marched towards Delhi in efforts to get newly-introduced farm bills repealed. However, the government retaliated by preventing the farmers from entering Delhi.

On January 26, India’s Republic Day, the farmers held their own parade in efforts to get the government to listen to them. Despite having a planned route given by the Delhi police, a small group of protesters broke off and went their separate ways. This small group ended up storming the heavily guarded Lal Qila (Red Fort), to which the police responded violently. Police used barricades, water cannons, guns, and other methods of violence against the peaceful protestors. As a result of this police brutality, several protestors lost their lives.

As retaliation to the protest, the government shut down major resources such water, electricity, and access to media. Protestors did not have any way of contacting the ‘outside world’. Upon learning this, the United Nations finally tweeted about the manner. The UN tweeted, “#India we call on the authorities and protestors to exercise maximum restraint in ongoing #FarmersProtests. The rights to peaceful assembly & expression should be protected both offline & online. It’s crucial to find equitable solutions with due respect to #HumanRights for all.” After the UN commented, there was hope that the Indian government would reconsider its actions. However, the only difference made was that the media blackouts were lessened.

January 26 was not the first time that the protestors dealt with death; as of February 3rd, 204 protestors have died from heart attacks, suicides, and harsh weather. In addition, it has been revealed that protestors are actually being kidnapped and tortured by the police in an effort to quiet down the movement. Twenty-three year-old labor rights activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested, tortured, and sexually assaulted in police custody. She has been detained without bail since January 12; however, there is now a legal team working on a third case for a bail hearing. Delhi police also arrested 21 year old climate activist Disha Ravi for tweeting a harmless google document about the farmers protest. The Bharatiya Janata Party ministers have called for her “eradication” and online supporters “joke” about her custodial rape.

Although the Indian government tried silencing Indian journalists and activists, the farmers’ protest is finally starting to gain recognition in the United States. On February 2, over two months after the protest started, Rihanna tweeted about the movement. This led several other influential people to bring awareness and donate to the issue. However, the Indian government was not happy with the involvement of ‘outsiders’. Many Indian actors broke their silence on the issue by tweeting in support of the government. Others claimed that Rihanna and everyone else who tweeted in favor of the farmers had been paid. Those opposing the farmers led their own mini protest in which they actually burned pictures of Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, and Amanda Cerny among other farmer supporters.

Police planted nails at the Gazipur border of Delhi in attempts to stop the farmers; the farmers retaliated by planting flowers. This shows that the government is trying to make the protest violent and paint the farmers in a bad light. However, the farmers are doing their best to keep this as peaceful as possible. Despite the harsh weather, the ruthless treatment by police, and several deaths as well as disappearances, the farmers are still holding their ground and fighting for their rights. It is our duty to support these farmers and create awareness for if there are no farmers there is no food.