For months, hundreds of thousands of peasants they are protesting in India and many of them have been camping on the highways around Delhi since the end of November, despite the cold and rain. The reason for these mass demonstrations? The government introduced new laws for agricultural trade in September, which fail to guarantee minimum prices for wheat and rice – a move that farmers see as a threat to their survival.
Farmers fear that the new agricultural laws will increase the power of large multinationals, arguing that price cuts will make it difficult to make ends meet for small and medium farmers. At the same time, the climate crisis it has already compromised their profits, as temperatures rise, droughts and hurricanes damage crops across the state.
Many generations of farmers joined the protests, from the oldest to the very young, and women were also at the forefront of the demonstrations. During the protests, there have been clashes between demonstrators and police, with the interruption of the mobile network in the Delhi area. Here, the artist and filmmaker Jassi Sangha, who comes from a long line of Punjab peasants, explains what is happening on the field in Delhi.
“I come from a farming family – my whole family is deeply involved. It’s not just a job, it’s part of the culture in states like Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan. Small and medium-sized farmers will suffer the most from the new agricultural laws. Without the minimum support prices, private market players will buy our wheat at the price they want. Consumers will also be affected, as companies will be able to sell wheat at any price.
Women are demonstrating a strong presence in the protests. The reason is that they are often directly involved in agriculture, for the collection and storage of produce – agricultural markets are full of women at work. In fact, 85% of women living in rural areas are engaged in agriculture, but only 13% of them own the land. There are also many widows who work in agriculture, as i suicides are a widespread problem among the peasants. “
How are women involved in Indian peasant protests?
“This month, peasant women played a central role in the protests in Dheli on the occasion of the Day of Rural Women. In addition, in the past two months, they have organized demonstrations, protests and meetings in several states. There was singing and dancing, and we even created a newspaper. “
For the past two months, there are people who have slept on tractor trailers parked on the streets on the outskirts of Delhi to participate in the protests and we have organized community kitchens, where not only the protesters eat, but also the local communities. Residents have also opened their homes to allow people to use the toilets and showers.
What differentiates these protests is the scale. The movement is spreading throughout the country. They made these laws without consulting the farmers: there was no public discussion ”.
What are the links with the climate crisis?
“In addition to the effects on human sustenance, the new laws will multiply the effects on the climate crisis. Currently in India we mainly grow wheat and rice (crops that consume lots of water resources), which has exacerbated the water crisis we are facing. In recent years, farmers have been working to reform the agricultural model and we have encouraged farmers to turn to alternative crops, such as vegetables and legumes, as a greener option, but large farms will want to continue with the current model because it guarantees them more profits.
We have to make our voices heard now – we have to fight. Unfortunately, it is reckoned that so far at least 50 farmers died during the protests. The laws were suspended by the Supreme Court, but we want that they are repealed. We will accept nothing less than this. “
How can we help?
You can sign this petition calling for the revocation of the laws.
Additionally, you can make donations to organizations that support farmers in India, including Save Indian Farmers, the Center for Sustainable Agriculture is fundraising organized by United Sikh Mission to provide medical assistance during protests.