Washington: Several US lawmakers and eminent members of the Sikh community in America have voiced their support for farmers agitating in India against the new farm laws and urged that they be allowed to protest peacefully.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been protesting on various borders of Delhi since November 26, seeking repealing of three farm laws enacted in September.
Dubbing these laws as “anti-farmer”, these farmers claim that the newly enacted legislation would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
“I stand in solidarity with the Punjabi farmers in India protesting for their livelihoods and protection from misguided, manipulative government regulations, Congressman Doug LaMalfa said on Monday.
“Punjabi farmers must be allowed to protest peacefully against their government without fear of violence,” said the Republican lawmaker who represents Californian’s first Congressional district.
India has called the remarks by foreign leaders and politicians on protests by farmers as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted” as the matter pertained to the internal affairs of a democratic country.
“India is the world’s largest Democracy – they owe it to their citizens to allow peaceful protest. I encourage these folks and PM (Narendra) Modi to have peaceful, productive discussions, Democratic Congressman Josh Harder said.
Congressman T J Cox said India must uphold the right to peaceful demonstration and ensure their citizens’ safety.
The rights of farmers protesting must be respected, and meaningful dialogue is the way forward, the Democratic leader asserted.
Congressman Andy Levin said he was inspired by the movement of farmers in India.
“I see it as a harbinger of a people power year in 2021,” the Democratic lawmaker said.
The US Sikh Community on Monday urged Prime Minister Modi to accept the demands of the agitating farmers and continue to have a dialogue with them.
In a letter, the Sikhs of America urged the prime minister to recognise the farmer’s protest as a national protest and not a regional one.
Signed by eminent Sikh American Jasse Singh and several other members of the community, the letter ridiculed effort by a section of the society and media to brand a genuine protest by the Sikhs as a separatist or a pro-Khalistan movement.
This is a national movement of the farmers and not restricted to just Punjab alone, Singh said.
“Please accept the demands of our farmers,” the letter said.
“Any kind of aggression on behalf of the Government against these peaceful protests by farmers will go against the principles and values of our great democracy and even against the principles of your party,” said the letter, a copy of which was submitted to the Indian Embassy here in Washington DC.
Observing that there are hundreds of thousands of farmers throughout the nation protesting the three laws, the letter said that there is no doubt that these new laws were brought in for the betterment of farmers.
“But now we see that farmers do not want it and are giving an extraordinarily strong message against these laws which is being watched not only in India but throughout the world,” the letter said.
Protests at such a massive scale is a clear mandate that farmers do not want these laws, the letter said.
“We request you not to impose these laws against the mandate. Farmers have always been the backbone of Indian economy and development, and their mandate should not be ignored, it said.
Agitating farmer unions have threatened to block national highways and occupy toll plazas across the country during their ‘chakka jam’ protest from 11 am to 3 pm on Tuesday as part of their stir.
The farmers’ protest has also caught the attention of the mainstream US media. The protests have spread beyond New Delhi. Farmers marched and waved banners in the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka and in the northeastern state of Assam.
Sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh, who would be less affected by the farm overhaul, set up a protest camp in solidarity, clogging a central artery on the state’s border with Delhi, The New York Times reported.
According to a CNN report, “Tens of thousands of farmers have swarmed India’s capital where they intend to camp out for weeks to protest new agricultural laws that they say could destroy their livelihoods.”