By: Sankar Ray
An unprecedented gesture of international solidarity with the three-month long farmers’ struggle is eloquently reflected in an 800-plus word statement by over hundred labour, community and civil society organisations the world over through a full-page advertisement in Toronto Star on 27 February in English and French. “The farmers’ agitation for the repeal of the pro-corporate farm laws has become the largest and longest sustained non-violent movement in Indian history, surpassing Mahatma Gandhi’s historic Dandi March against the abhorrent Salt Law of the British colonial regime”
Among more than one hundred signatories –Canadians being numerically top – from several countries such as the USA, UK, France, Germany, Norway, South Africa and India as also non-resident Indians and Pakistanis are Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)/Congress du travail du Canada (CTC), Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), British Columbia Federation of Labour (BCFL), British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)/Syndicate Canadian de la function publique (SCFP), Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)/ Syndicat des travailleurs ettravailleuses des postes (STTP), Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain–CSN, Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec–CSN, Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL), National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), Academics and Activists Against Hate.
Apart, the signatories include Canada, Alternatives, Montréal, Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas (ABAT), Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, UK, Collectif-CEDETIM, France, The Corner House, UK. Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, UK, The Community Food Centres Canada/Centres communautaires d’alimentation du Canada, Dalit Solidarity Forum-USA, Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), India Civil Watch International (ICWI), India Civil Watch-Montreal, India Solidarity, Germany, Indian Resistance Network, Norway, Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Association UK, Indian Workers’ Association GB (COC), UK, Khanyisa Education and Development Trust, South Africa, Kurdish People’s Assembly, UK, Makukhanye Rural Movement, South Africa, Pakistan Organization of Quebec (POQ), The Kurdish Women’s Initiative in the UK. Toronto Association for Democracy in China and Voices Against Fascism in India.
Terming the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) comprising 250 organizations from 20 states as “a unique broad coalition, from Dalit agricultural labourers to small and middle peasants”, it noted that AIKSSC ,through a private members bill (supported by 21 political parties other than the BJP) introduced in 2018, suggested ‘a reform agenda towards making farming debt-free and sustainable’.
Indicting vile the attempt of an anti-farmer federal government resorting to subversion of the non-violent peaceful protest demonstrations on January 26, it hails the “already growing support for it from farmers across India is now even stronger, with vast gatherings or mahapanchayats of farmers held in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab”, despite tendentious “vilification and criminalization of the farmers and those who have come out in support of them, including youth, journalists and human rights defenders, the movement has now acquired the character of a broad-based attempt to defend the very democratic rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, most importantly, the freedom of speech and assembly and the right of peaceful dissent from and opposition to the actions and policies of the government”.
The solidarity statement makes no secret of repressive intent of the NDA government under the hegemony of Bharatiya Janata Party. “For several months the hundreds of thousands of farmers protesting peacefully on the borders of the national capital have faced and withstood brutal repressive policing including water cannons, tear gas and barricades in the near freezing conditions of a Delhi winter. 220 farmers have died as a result of the harsh conditions, a few unfortunately by their own hands as despair overcame them. The full participation of women in the protests, whether as tractor drivers or marchers, is another notable feature of the farmers’ agitation. Denying and defying the patriarchal stereotypes of rural north India through their participation in the protests, the women have demonstrated their full status as farmers on par with men. Another feature is the participation of older farmers, some in their 80s, providing evidence of the determination of the entire farm community to defy the diktats of a repressive regime.”
Indicting the Narendra Modi government severely for having “rammed the farm laws stealthily through Parliament in September 2020, using its brute majority in the Lok Sabha” and adopting “questionable manoeuvre of a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha where it did not have a majority, and counting on the pandemic to muffle opposition outside Parliament”. The enactment was done “without any consultation with farmers or their representatives, the farmers’ unions”, it pointed out.
It is ironic, the solidarity statement observed, “Prime Minister Modi’s BJP campaigned on a pro-farmer platform, including making a minimum support price (MSP) mandatory and implementing the Swaminathan Report that is critical to saving India’s agriculture and farmers. The laws blatantly advance the interests of Modi’s crony corporate capitalists, such as Ambani and Adani, against those of the vast majority of the agricultural sector, effectively throwing farmers to the corporate sharks.”
In an emotional tone, the transcontinental inspiration that is embedded in the expression of solidarity, it states, “We salute the heroism of the farmers and pay homage to the departed souls who sacrificed their all to the larger cause. We demand that the Government of India stop vilifying the movement and criminalizing the human and democratic rights defenders and others who are part of the widespread support for it from diverse sections of Indian people”.
The farmers, they appreciate deeply, “are literally sacrificing their well-being and putting their lives on the line to uphold these constitutional guarantees on behalf of all the people of India and are setting a glorious example to the entire world. Their heroism and their sacrifice deserve our strong support and our undying gratitude.”
They demand that the unjust pro-corporate farm laws, the electricity act, and the pollution penalty on farmers be repealed, MSP be extended in line with the Swaminathan Commission recommendations for all farm products along with written guarantee of MSP. (IPA Service)