The Sikh community in Western Australia is spearheading a solidarity campaign with Indian farmers protesting the Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s anti-farmer laws.
Several hundred people marched through the CBD to the Indian Consulate on December 26 as part of an international day of action organised by WA Supporting Farmers and the Sikh community.
The protesters called on the BJP government to scrap the 2020 farm bills which are making famers' and landless workers lives harder. The bills in question are the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The Modi government claims that these laws will transform India’s agricultural sector by empowering tens of millions of farmers.
However, hundreds of millions of farmers and workers don't agree: they say the laws are “corporate-friendly and anti-farmer” and, on November 26, more than 250 million Indian workers and farmers took part in a general strike.
Addressing the crowd in Perth, rally organiser Turunpeet Singh condemned the Modi government for passing the laws in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, when there had been no serious consultation. He described the government's actions as unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Singh said the laws strip farmers of their rights, leaving them like slaves. He said when the farmers stood up for their rights, they were brutally repressed by India's security forces.
Research scientist Dr Harmohinder Dhammu condemned the essential commodities amendment which removes essential foodstuffs from the government’s “essential commodities list” and allows corporations and retailers to hoard foodstuffs.
“With this amendment anybody, or any corporation, can store any amount of grains or foodstuff,” he said. “Based on experience, there is a suspicion that will this lead to false food scarcity, leading to higher prices.”
The huge size and sustained nature of the farmers’ movement has forced the Modi government to grant some concessions. It announced on December 30 that farmers would be exempt from the electricity amendment and pollution laws.
These exemptions will allow farmers to maintain their energy subsidies and will decriminalise those farmers who burn crop stubble.
Meanwhile, the Sikh community is continuing to organise solidarity actions with India’s farmer movement. On January 3, they organised a vehicle to drive through the suburbs between different Sikh temples, sporting placards that stated: “No farmers, No food, No future”.
[To find out more go the WA Supporting Farmers Facebook page.]