VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Dozens of people gathered peacefully outside of the Indian consulate in Vancouver in another show of solidarity with farmers protesting in New Delhi.
Thursday’s rally was held to support Indian farmers’ demand that newly-introduced agricultural laws be repealed. Protesters in India beyond say those reforms will devastate independent farmers.
Bhupinder Kaur Biln was among those gathered in downtown Vancouver, and said protesters in Metro Vancouver are following the lead of demonstrations that started months ago in Punjab and Haryana states.
“These laws are being brought without any input from the farmers themselves, and we want to show solidarity to the farmers because they are right — if we have no farmers, we have no food,” she says.
Protests have recently intensified, gaining international attention when thousands of farmers were met by police who used tear gas, water cannons, and baton charges to push them back as they tried to enter New Dehli.
Biln says Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been ignoring tens of thousands of people who have taken to the streets of New Delhi, and the millions nationwide who have shown their support buy striking in solidarity.
“For the Prime Minister of India to not even come out once to speak to his own people, he’s got 500,000 peaceful protesters marched into the capital city, he has an obligation, he has a duty to come and speak,” she says.
“The government of India has not listened to the people. No one wants to do a protest in the midst of a pandemic, but when you’re unheard, that’s when people decide to do a protest.”
Demonstrations in the Lower Mainland have also included massive vehicle rallies, which have slowly made their way from Surrey to the consulate on Howe Street.
Aan Singh, who was also at the rally, told NEWS 1130 leaders in India have reached out to say the support they are seeing in cities like Vancouver has strengthened their resolve.
“They say because of your peaceful protests, your voice around the world, we see it. It keeps us energized and that’s what fuels us to keep our peace and to keep our stance here,” he says.
Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
India’s government on Thursday offered to meet again with leaders of tens of thousands of farmers who have been blockading key highways for two weeks, but rejected their demand for the repeal of three laws on agricultural reform.
Five rounds of talks since November have failed to produce a breakthrough, with the farmers insisting the laws must be repealed rather than amended.
With files from The Associated Press