Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Toronto in the city on Saturday to show their support for farmers in India who are protesting new laws that they say will destroy their livelihood.
The consul organizers are Canadians in the Sikh community who say that farmers work tirelessly to feed India and the world – and that farmers need support now more than ever because their right to peaceful protest blocked by police who have used methods such as tear gas, batons and water cannons against them.
“Our farmers are the backbone of our nation. This issue has reached close to home … their lives matter to us,” protester Mansi Kaur said over the sound of dozens of car horns bouncing off in the rally.
Kaur gathered with hundreds of others who wore masks and held signs to support the farmers, with slogans like “Justice for Farmers” and “No Farmers, No Food.” Others stayed in their cars at the demonstration.
She said she is there with others to protest three new laws in India that they say will see crop prices cut and farmers exploited by large corporations.
WATCHING Torontonians rally in support of protesting farmers in India
Thousands of farmers in India have been camping on the outskirts of the capital for the past 10 days until the new agricultural laws are withdrawn. They head towards New Delhi as they continue their calls.
Farmers had also been protesting the laws for nearly two months in the states of Punjab and Haryana.
The Indian government failed to impose a limit on farmers on Saturday and will meet again on Wednesday, agriculture minister and union leaders said.
Farmers have long been considered the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 million people, but the farmers have also seen their economic influence diminish over the past three decades.
The Indian government said the purpose of the legislation is to bring about reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment.
Farmers fear the legislation will eventually dismantle India’s regulated markets and prevent the government from buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices, leaving them to negotiate with private buyers. These call for the government to repeal the laws and keep compulsory purchases from the government, among other demands.
“It was as if we were going to work, and there was no longer a minimum wage,” said Nanki Kaur, who was also at the rally in Toronto. “They feed us. It’s up to us to stand up for them.”
Unity of the Sikh diaspora in Canada
Jaskaran Sandhu, director of administration at the World Sikh Organization Canada, said the protests taking place in India were “historical” and that images of the protests had deeply affected those in the Sikh disapora in Canada.
“For all of us here, we have family and friends at home. So when we watch the images of police cruelty, when we watch the images and videos on the floor of water cannons and tear gas and accusations from the police police with sticks, it really hurts us, “he said.
But Sandhu said it has also been inspiring to see the persistence of the farmers who continue to assert their right to protest peacefully, despite police actions.
Sandhu added that many of those at the Toronto rally have a family involved in the protests in India, including seniors, which has made the situation scary to watch from afar.
“As Canadians, like Sikhs and Punjabis living here in the diaspora, we want to make sure that our people are safe and that the right to peaceful protest is protected,” Sandhu said, adding that those in the community all over Canada having these same conversations. their homes.
Car rallies are also organized in cities like Vancouver and Ottawa to show unity, Sandhu said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments earlier this week calling the Indian government’s response to protesters “concerned” were also very helpful, he said.
Those comments led to a swift response from officials in India who said the Trudeau was “well informed.” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers have also framed the farmers as “anti-national” – a term the government has long used against its critics.
“We need people to stand up and talk so that the Indian government knows they are being watched,” Sandhu said.
Blankets, sanitary kits are among supplies sent by a fundraising group
Along with rallying, Sikh communities in Canada have been supporting the protesters in India by sending them supplies to continue their efforts, said Gurpartap Singh Toor, a volunteer with Khalsa Aid Canada.
“There has been tremendous support,” he said.
The fundraising group is focused on improving the health and safety of the exhibiting farmers, Toor said. Khalsa Aid Canada has sent firefighters – as the farmers cook on the ground as they camp – as well as devices to spray down campgrounds to prevent mosquito bites that can sometimes cause illness.
Toor said menstrual kits were also sent because of an “unprecedented” number of women at the protests, along with portable bathrooms to provide safe and private places for women to use the bathroom. The cold weather at night has also been a problem, so Toor said the organization sent blankets and shelters to the farmers, especially to the protesting elderly.
“I’d say a lot of Canadian people have a family that’s in the protests right now … security is the biggest concern,” he said, adding that fear of continued police violence remains high.
Toor said the farmers had asked him and others to create as much public awareness as possible of the issue. “It brings a lot of global eyes on India, so the government knows if they act with bad intent, then the world is watching,” he said.