- In San Francisco and Detroit, defying cold weather and Coronavirus, protests were held against Modi government policies.
In a massive show of support for the protesting farmers of India, a peaceful “kisaan solidarity rally” was held in Oakland, California on Saturday, Dec 5. Adorned with posters, hundreds of vehicles drove towards the Indian Consulate in San Francisco via the Bay Bridge, honking in support of the farmers’ agitation.
The California Kisaan Solidarity Car & Truck Rally #FarmerProtest solidarity rally was organized by Jakara Movement, a “grassroots organization, inspired by Sikh principles, that strengthens community engagement and creates empowerment” – as posted on their web page. This group made up of a staff of 10 committed individuals throughout the state of California focuses on issues of civic engagement, education, health, and social justice.
The rally clogged traffic in various parts of San Francisco, local media reports said.
Posts on social media show the protesters, traveling in a car caravan from around the region, demanding support for Indian farmers who are on strike.
Thousands of farmers in India have been camped at Delhi borders for ten days now, demanding the rollback of three new farm laws that were passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in September 2020. Protesters say the bills would eliminate the minimum price for crops, which would de-regulate the industry and leave millions of farmers to live below the poverty line.
The farmers fear that the new laws will leave them at the mercy of large corporations. They say these reforms could devastate crop prices and reduce their earnings because they will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations that will push down prices.
The new regulations have compounded existing tensions with farmers long complaining of being ignored by the government in their demands for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.
With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihood, the growing farmer rebellion has shaken the Modi administration.
Modi and his allies have also tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws while simultaneously dismissing their concerns. Some of his party leaders have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national,” a label often given to Modi detractors.
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, member of world Sikh Parliament and President of the Sikh Sewak Society International USA told American Kahani, “Throwing tear gas, water cannons and use of excessive force and police brutality must be stopped and the Indian government and the Indian media should not defame peaceful farmers movement as anti-national movement.”
Rally in Detroit
Metro Detroiters also joined in the peaceful protests that have been cropping up all over the world in support of Indian farmers. Despite the cold weather and the pandemic, hundreds of Indian Americans from around Detroit gathered at Heritage Park in Canton for a peaceful rally in support of the farmers.
Talking to American Kahani, Michigan state Rep-elect Ranjeev Puri said, “”The right to peaceful protest is fundamental in any democracy. The reports of peaceful Indian farmers subject to inhumane treatment, water cannons and tear gas are deeply troubling. I encourage dialogue and fair solutions for the millions impacted. There are farmers out there who need our help. We fight for the values we believe in and we stand with our neighbor.”
One Michigan protester, Dr. Amanjot Sarao, who comes from a long line of farmers told Click on Detroit, “It hurts me to see these farmers, who are trying to put food on the table and feed their families — they won’t be able to do that if they can’t have basic human rights.”
Sarao emigrated to the U.S. from Punjab when she was a little girl.
“As we were driving up (to the protest), I looked at my mom. I did not imagine so many people to be here,” Sarao said adding, “I was shocked.”
Speaking to Detroit News, Jas Sidhu, of Plymouth, an organizer of the forum and descendant of farmers who said he also formerly farmed in India said, “What we are seeing is systematic repression of human rights.”
Sidhu added, “This is the only thing our ancestors did, and now their whole future is in jeopardy because slowly and systematically they’re creating these laws that are eventually going to kill all the farming in India.”
Amrinder Grewal, a Canton Township resident whose parents and grandparents were farmers in India, speaking to Detroit News said he still has relatives and friends there and the laws are “ruining their lives.”
The Indian government, he added, has targeted peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons.
“The government is suppressing their voice,” said Grewal, an immigrant who has lived in Canton for about five years. “I have a fear the government is going to use some force on them.”
Protesters said they felt proud of their Metro Detroit neighbors for coming together and speaking up for those whose voices are being silenced in India.
The Tri-State area saw a support car rally outside the Indian consulate, in which mainly cars from N.J., N.Y. and Connecticut participated.
Khalsa, who participated in the rally told American Kahani, “We are thankful to the youth of the Sikh and South Asian diaspora for arranging rallies all across the country outside Indian consulates to show their solidarity with farmers in India.”
Netizens took to Twitter both in support of farmers in India and to complain. Kingshuk Das posted videos on his Twitter handle with the tag “Protesting Punjabi Style” adding, “We happened to be on the Bay Bridge with what seems like the entire Norcal Punjabi farming community out in force to protest the Indian farm bill.”
Genny Aversano was not happy with the traffic congestion. Aversano posted with a video on Twitter, “Demonstrations are causing massive traffic backups on the Bay Bridge heading into San Francisco. Honking everywhere.”
Ravinder Singh Tweeted, “Panjabi community turn up in record numbers for the car rally in support for the #Farmers! The roads are jammed. Our man @Omar SinghKA (referring to Khalsa Aid Director for the U.S.) is with the convoy!”
#FreeJaggiNow Tweeted, “Almost reaching the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, the line of cars at the front and rear are so long they cannot be captured on video.”
Similar rallies have been held in Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.