India Farmers’ Protest: Peasants around the world send messages of solidarity and support

(This article has been updated on 19 January, with more solidarity statements)

Braving harsh weather and an apathetic government, Indian farmers continue to camp at the national capital demanding that the Central Government roll back the three controversial legislation that was brought in late last year. The sixth round of negotiations, held on 04th January also failed to make any significant progress as the national government refuses to repeal the three laws.

As per the latest updates, another round of talks will take place on 20th January. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India has passed an order and has put on hold, until further orders, the implementation of the three laws. The Court has also named a committee to suggest — in two months — what changes, if any, were needed after it listens to all sides. The farmers organisations have raised doubts about the neutrality of this committee, and has vowed to not leave the national capital unless the three legislation have been repealed.

Speaking to a news channel earlier in January, Yudhvir Singh of Bhartiya Kisan Union reiterated the following

“The government thinks that protesting farmers will soon disperse because of the biting cold and rains in Delhi. They are wrong. We are farmers, and we often face these conditions in our fields. So the harsh weather will not deter us, and we will not leave until the three laws are repealed. And farmers everywhere are protesting – not just UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Farmers in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP etc are all camping at their state borders…We are nearly 500 organisations from around the country in this protest.” ~ Yudhvir Singh, BKU after the meeting on 04th January failed to make any progress.

Meanwhile, farmers, peasants and activists in Korea, Indonesia, Canada, United States, UK, Brazil, Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Portugal have sent their messages of solidarity to protesting farmers in India.

Echoing the concerns and sentiments of India’s farmers, Confederação Nacional da Agricultura – CNA from Portugal cited that “ These reforms, which liberalize prices and put an end to the markets regulated by the Government, put peasants in a situation of great vulnerability before large corporations and large agribusiness. The CNA could not remain indifferent and sent an appeal to India’s diplomatic representation in Portugal, urging the Indian Government to step back in introducing reforms, thus defending peasants and the human right of their population to adequate food”

The Korean Peasant League, one of the largest peasant unions in South Korea sent a video message from their leadership extending support to Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha in India and hoped that the government will roll back the three legislations soon.

Family Farm Defenders in the United States of America also sent in their message of solidarity. “Family Farm Defenders wishes to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in India as they continue their struggle for food sovereignty and economic justice. Over half of India’s 1.3 billion people depend upon agriculture for their livelihood, and of those 85% farm under two acres and earn less than $1400 per year. Yet, the Modi government has staged a David versus Goliath fight by undermining access to basic essentials and expecting small farmers, low wage workers, and poor consumers to “negotiate” with massive corporate middlemen in a rigged market.”, the statement reads.

The Korean Women Peasant Association and the Indonesian Peasants Union also sent messages of solidarity.

In a statement sent to the Indian farmers organisations, The Landless Workers Movement – MST, Brazil supported “the demands of the Indian peasants that the government reverse this legislation, and that the government introduce a law that guarantees a Minimum Support Price for their products, so that under no circumstances are farmers forced to sell their products at a loss.”

National Farmers Union in Canada also cited their own adverse experiences with reforms that enabled agribusinesses. 

“We in Canada recognize the Indian farmers’ struggle as similar to our own struggle. We support them in their right to protest, and in their call for agriculture policy that supports the millions of smallholder farmers growing food in India,” said NFU President Katie Ward. As shrinking net farm incomes reach a crisis level for farmers around the world and also in Canada, Canadian farmers understand the need for government regulation that works for farmers rather than for those who take profits at the expense of farmers. “We have experienced the dismantling of institutions that were vital to the bargaining power and, by extension, incomes of Canadian farmers,” said NFU Vice-President Stewart Wells, “For example the loss of the single desk marketing system for hogs in the 1990’s and more recently the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board, among others.”

On 12th January The Land Workers Alliance (LWA) in the UK sent a letter to the Rt Hon MP Dominic Raab, UK Foreign Secretary, asking him to support Indian Farmers through UK development policy. In a statement issued to the Indian movements, the LWA notes, “The demonstrations have been sparked by the passing of a package of three bills affecting the agricultural sector. Farmers are resisting these new laws and also demanding a fair Minimum Support Price (MSP); which is a floor price across all crops. You can find out more about the details here, but the take-home message is that taken together the new legislation will loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce. A farm sector long protected by government regulation is to be exposed to market forces on a new scale, taking India down the development route that the UK has already taken toward consolidation and industrialisation.”

Kevin Arseneau, peasant farmer and politician Member of the Legislative Assembly in New-Brunswick, Canada also expressed his solidarity.

The All Nepal Peasants Federation and the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee also sent their solidarity messages.

In an article written for the Hindu, Hashmim Bin Rashid and Ahilan Kadirgamar notes,

Those familiar with the systematic attack on agriculture in South Asia over the last decades will not be surprised at the ongoing farmers’ protests in India. It could have been Pakistan, where farmers protesting for support prices were beaten up and arrested in Lahore only a month ago, or Sri Lanka, where shortages of imported fertilizers and declining subsidies has led to farmers’ outcry. In the middle of a long simmering rural economic crisis pushed over the cliff by the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts by South Asian governments to project corporatisation and deregulation as the way forward for agriculture have angered long-suffering farmers.”

CETIM, a research and publication centre based in Switzerland that works closely on agrarian matters and peasants rights, expressed its solidarity with the struggle of Indian workers and peasants for dignity, social justice and respect for the fundamental rights of peoples. “The Indian government must respect its international human rights commitments, in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.”, it said.

In a statement of support issued to Indian farmers, GRAIN, a research organisation that works to support small farmers for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems emphasised that “farmers must remain free to decide what they want to grow and how, and have legal assurance for fair and remunerative prices for their produce from the government. The farmers’ protest in India is a living example of food sovereignty where farmers are fighting for their freedom, their right to continue farming, their ability to till their land without being pushed into bonded contracts and their right to get a guaranteed fair price for their products.”