- The 30-second ad was put together by Indian American banker Raj Sodhi-Layne and her friends.
Super Bowl Sunday and advertisements go hand in hand. Tapping into the massive audience that tunes in to watch the championship NFL game, advertisers use these coveted spots to reach out to a wider base. One such ad aired on Feb. 7, in California’s Fresno County, sought to bring attention to the ongoing Farmers protests in India and the government’s new agricultural laws.
The 30-second ad was put together by Indian American banker Raj Sodhi-Layne and her friends which was aired on Channel 47 KSEE 24. It began with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and billed the ongoing farmers’ protest as the “largest protest in history.” It also included a brief appearance by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.
The video was shared on Twitter by activist Simran Jeet Singh. “Here’s the Super Bowl ad featuring the Farmers Protest,” Singh wrote. “If you haven’t heard about it yet, now is the time to learn. It’s an issue of injustice that affects all of us.”
Yourcentralvalley.com reports that the ad was funded by the Central Valley Sikh community in an effort to raise awareness about the issue. “It really does affect families who have land there in a very intimate way,” Sodhi-Layne told yourcentralvalley.com. “We either have family farming land or we’ve leased out our land.”
Sodhi-Layne is the senior vice president at Xander Mortgage & Real Estate. Prior to that she was the vice president of California Bank and Trust.
She told American Kahani that their initial goal was to air the ad in all 43 major cities across the United States. For that they needed to raise $852,000. “But we were a bit late for that,” she says. The idea for the making ad was first discussed on Feb. 3, the Wednesday before Super Bowl Sunday. She set up a GoFundMe page and by Thursday she had raised $11,123. “So we were advised to only focus on Fresno County,” she says. “We had a Zoom call with CBS on Thursday noon and the ad, along with the $10,000 payment, was required by 3 pm Friday.”
The excess funds were donated to non-profit organisation ‘Seva For Everyone’. The ad was produced by local artist and producer Shar Singh of Teji Videos.
One of the reasons Sodhi-Layne decided to make the commercial was the visuals from the ongoing protests. “When I look at the faces of the old men and women, they represent my grandparents,” she says. Her grandparents on both sides were farmers and her grandfather still has land in Punjab. “There is synergy between farmers in India and farmers in the U.S.,” she says. “It’s scary.”
Sodhi-Layne, who is on the board of Fresno County Chamber, was recently appointed to the Mayor’s Advisory Council. According to her Fresno County has 1.8 million acres of farm land, while California has 25 million acres of farmland. “We contribute $7.7 billion towards the GDP,” she says.
A 2018 Sikh Coalition report estimates that there are approximately 40,000 Sikhs/Punjabis in Fresno County, 200,000 in California and roughly 700,000 in the United States.
Gurpreet Mann with Sikh Institute Fresno told yourcentralvalley.com that “the three laws are really going to change agriculture in India. The way they have been practicing agriculture, the corporate world is really going to be coming to the small farmers.”
Kulvir Sekhon, who still owns land and has family in India told yourcentralvalley.com: “We are not just concerned about our land only, we are concerned about our people, people who live there who have to put up with those laws which they don’t want to.”
Several Indian Americans have held rallies across the U.S to show solidarity with the farmers protesting in India. Similarly celebrities, including pop singer Rihanna, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Meera Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Devi Harris and actresses Susan Sarandon and Jamila Jamil, among others have taken to social media to show their support.
In a video message which was aired four days ago, Mayor Dyer joined celebrities, activists, and politicians in standing in solidarity with the Indian farmers. “I’m going to continue to fight for what is right because this is unfair, it’s oppressive and we are going to fight for the people in our community as well as those people in India.”
Local media reported that Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) also released a video in solidarity, saying the Indian farmers have a right to peacefully protest.