More than two hundred people gathered at the B.C. Legislature to support farmers in India, who have been protesting new agricultural laws since November.
It began as a car rally from North Saanich that included people from the Lower Mainland and Victoria and ended in a protest on the steps of the legislature on Monday afternoon.
“To be sitting here not being able to do anything for those that are on the other side of the world facing that violence, it becomes very difficult for us,” said Dupinder Saran, one of the organizers of the protest.
This rally is a way to make sure their voices are heard, she added. Volunteers were spread out throughout the crowd, ensuring those participating were masked and distanced.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting in India for more than two months, calling on the government to repeal three new agricultural laws aimed at deregulating the sector.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said these changes will modernize the market and help farmers prosper, by allowing them to sell directly to private buyers.
Many farmers, however, disagree. They fear the new laws will open the door to corporate exploitation and drive down crop prices.
India’s government currently has a guaranteed minimum price for certain crops called the MSP, but farmers are concerned the new bills could lead to its elimination.
“Even though right now there’s a guarantee of MSP, it’s not written in law,” Jindi Singh, one of the protestors, explained. “The government could easily pull the MSP later on … and if that happens, then [the farmers] are open to the elements and open to corporations.”
Singh said some of his aunts, uncles and cousins are out protesting in the Haryana area and it’s important he shows his support.
“My family is a family of farmers,” Singh said. “This has impacted our relatives in India and they don’t have a secure future in farming because of these laws.”
Recent clashes between protestors and police have turned violent, with officers releasing tear gas into the crowds and beating them with batons.
The government temporarily suspended internet services at borders around Delhi, leaving many Canadians that have family there in the dark.
“Extremely distraught, trying to find out even from my relatives or my family how they are and what’s happening,” said Singh. “It’s stressful.”
This is a human rights issue and Canada needs to pay attention, said Gurvir Singh, another protestor who attended with his family.
“The government of India has shut off the internet, has shut off water, shut off electricity to its own citizens,” he said. “They’re stopping the free information from flowing … these people don’t understand that you’re literally cutting your own throat when you are hurting your own farmers.”
For many of the protestors at the legislature on Monday, the issue is close to their hearts.
“Our roots still lie there,” said Saran, adding her parents immigrated to Canada 60 years ago. “I’ve gone to India, I’ve visited. To me, it’s very important, that cultural aspect of keeping connected to our actual motherland.”
— With files from the Canadian Press