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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Farmers’ protests highlight India’s failing democracy

With India’s failure to uphold democratic values on display, it is imperative that we stand in solidarity with farmers

In our current political age and climate, we have seen myriad instances of police  brutality and institutional racism. As American people we recognize our constitutional rights and condemn police brutality and racism. Now more than ever, we need to set a positive precedence for international issues and pave the way for democracy. 

Currently in India, over 260 million farmers are protesting against the new agricultural laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration in what is now being called the largest protest in the world. Passed in September of 2020, these “black laws” have privatized and corporatized India’s agriculture, resulting in the end of wholesale markets and assured prices, leading farmers into debt and suicide. One law enables the removal of the minimum support price (MSP) for farmers, which had guaranteed them a minimum pay for their crops. As such, private corporations now set the price for crops and have the free ability to exploit farmers as they see fit. Another law states that farmers cannot take these private corporations to court. These two laws coupled with each other illustrate the monopolization of the farming sector in India which will inevitably lead to the usurpation of farmers across the country.

Domestic and international economic analysts have repeatedly condemned the Modi administration’s selfish interests to monopolize the agricultural industry of India, a sector of business that makes up nearly 60% of the country’s economy. With these laws passed, Modi’s administration has disenfranchised farmers across the country who have already been dying by suicide because of increasing debt and lower crop yields amid a global pandemic.

Farmers started to peacefully protest in September upon hearing these laws and have now been doing so for more than 60 days. Amid a pandemic, freezing temperatures and increasing famine, protesters are met with the brutality of the Indian police who fired tear gas and water cannons, piled mountains of dirt and even assaulted individuals to prevent them from reaching New Delhi, the capital of India. Some protestors have died after suffering from pneumonia, the flu or COVID-19. Farmers, however, have expressed willingness to lay down their lives for their rights and the future of their generations.

India, a country that was freed from Britain largely because of Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful protests, is now violently retaliating against the desperate farmers’ protests. The world’s largest democracy has tainted what it means to be a democracy by disenfranchising the low and middle classes to provide assets to the rich. Despite ongoing protests now occurring internationally and steadily increasing international pressure, Modi’s administration has not suggested mediating the solution. Rather, the government’s efforts are to disperse the protests, unhesitant to use force. This fascism displayed by the Indian government and Modi’s administration is just one of many instances in India in which minorities are forsaken.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly shown his support for the farmers and has emphasized his dissent toward the Indian government’s actions to disperse the protests. However, the U.S. media and politicians have failed to effectively shed light on this massive breach of democracy and innate human rights. Despite considering ourselves as a national hegemon and the hallmark of democracy, farmers’ plights seem to have fallen on deaf ears within the U.S. As models of democracy for the world, we need to condemn the Indian government’s actions as a nation, as did Prime Minister Trudeau. Doing so would create international pressure on Modi’s administration to reprimand their unjust laws that benefit corporate greed and create a peaceful resolution with farmers. 

In the age of social media, an increasing number of videos exemplifying the Indian  government’s methods have been posted online. These videos, however, remain censored or are taken down. In fact, social media companies like Instagram had temporarily censored and removed hashtags that supported the protests. Supporters across the world have risen in support of farmers in India. With protests across the world from San Francisco to Canada to Britain to New Zealand, supporters have gathered to exemplify the power of unity and solidarity.

These protests show one of the many instances prevalent in the status quo of governments consciously choosing to disenfranchise minorities and those of lower  socioeconomic status. With India’s failure to uphold democratic values on display, it is imperative that we stand in solidarity with farmers. Failure to uphold democracy and equity now will inevitably lead to further breaches of inalienable rights. As such, it becomes our moral and social obligation to support democracy. I encourage you all to take action: Email congresswomen and congressmen, raise awareness on social media and become an active voice for your brothers and sisters fighting for their rights and lives in India.

Written by: Kavenpreet Bal

Kavenpreet Bal is a student at UC Davis majoring in biological sciences with a minor in political science. During his free-time, Bal enjoys working with Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative (BPSHI) to provide free healthcare to the medically underserved Sikh community. As an aspiring MD/JD candidate, he seeks to increase accessibility to healthcare while fighting against social injustices. 

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