In the biggest local show of support for India’s farmers in Brandon yet, a parade of 125 vehicles made its way through the city on Saturday.
"Everything went well — all over, everyone was so happy who was there and even other people from the community, too," key organizer Shinderpal Gill said after the parade wrapped up.
The majority of participants were from the immediate Brandon area, with approximately 10 vehicles coming from Winnipeg and two from Dauphin.
The afternoon event started at the Sobeys parking lot in Brandon’s west end with a brief unplanned chant in support of farmers, before the group, joined by Brandon Police Service escorts, made their way through the city.
The event was in keeping with the group’s past efforts, which has included a poster campaign and daily demonstration on 18th Street, in which members of Brandon’s Punjabi community have spoken out against three farm bills in India.
The bills’ opponents have argued the bills will deregulate the farming industry and prioritize corporations over independent farmers.
"I’m so far away I can’t do anything else," rally participant Bal Brar said while decorating a vehicle in the parking lot in advance of Saturday’s parade.
Protesters in India aren’t asking for money or anything material, she said.
"They’re just asking for a voice, and we want to be a voice for them."
"This is the best we can do, by increasing our presence on social media by supporting and making other people not aware of these bills how they’re positive or negative," Punjabi Cultural Association of Brandon vice-president Baljeet Singh said. "We all belong to farming communities back home, and we are doing our part by being part of that protest."
The local Indian community is not unanimous in its disapproval of these bills, with a small pro-government group making itself known on social media recently.
Pro-government member Shambhu Patel declined comment Sunday, saying he is not permitted to speak unless other key players were in on the call and that they were not available Sunday.
Gill said the pro-farmer group has reached out to the pro-government advocates to open a meaningful dialogue.
"We’re all from India, there’s no difference them from us and we’ll be on the same page one day," she said, adding that despite their differences, she believes they can maintain a peaceful dialogue.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB