New laws imposed by the government of India might soon rob Gagandeep Singh’s family of their livelihood.
This is why he joined several other supporters at the corner of 18th Street and Victoria Avenue on Monday in protest of the Indian government.
Holding a sign that read "Support Indian Farmers," he said various members of the local Punjabi community plan on keeping up a protest at the busy intersection every day until things improve in their native country.
"We’re here to make this a global movement — we want to make people aware of this issue and make it global news," he said, adding he hopes pressure from around the world helps change things in India.
As it stands, three contentious bills given assent a few months ago have deregulated crop pricing, and there are concerns corporations will push prices down to a point where input costs outweigh their sale price.
Singh said his entire family and their community in India rely on farming, and if they’re unsuccessful in convincing the government to repeal these bills, they’re likely to lose their land and livelihood.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping outside New Delhi for months in protest of the agricultural laws, and many have reportedly died in the cold weather. The death toll varies depending on the report, but Monday’s protesters cited 150.
"They’re sleeping on roads, eating on roads — their life is on roads for 90 days and the government is not paying attention to them," said Singh.
"We can’t be in our home country right now because of COVID, so we are doing our part here," said fellow protester Kanwar Suagh.
The local Punjabi community has been striving to inform Brandonites about the strife of their Indian brethren for the past few months.
In December, they launched an online poster campaign carrying hashtags such as #StandWithFarmers and #TakeBackFarmLaws.
"The traditional system works well for the producers, so the producers are thinking these new bills and reforms will be engaging in direct dealing with the corporate companies who will exploit them in the future," Punjabi Cultural Association of Brandon vice-president Baljeet Singh said at the time. "It’s about their existence; it’s about their rights."
These concerns haven’t died down, local protester Taranveer Singh said Monday — rather, they’ve been amplified.
His message to the community: "We need your support."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in support of Punjabi farmers in November and said the Canadian government had reached out to Indian authorities to highlight concerns.
Pop singer Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg have also offered their support in recent days.
In particular, Thunberg spoke against the arrest of Indian climate activist Disha Ravi, who is facing sedition charges in India for her alleged role in the creation of an online document intended to help amplify farmer protests.
"Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy. #StandWithDishaRavi," tweeted Thunberg.
» email@example.com, with files from The Canadian Press
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