VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — As a rally in support of Indian farmers rolled into Victoria Monday, Premier John Horgan tweeted his hopes for a peaceful resolution and his opposition to the violent government crackdown in Delhi.
Indian farmers have been protesting for nearly two months over new laws they say will benefit big corporations and wreak havoc on the earnings of smaller-scale farmers. They want the laws withdrawn. Since the protests began, videos have emerged of police hitting farmers with water cannons, releasing tear gas, and beating them with batons. Negotiations between farmers and the Indian government have been in a deadlock.
Shows of solidarity have been frequent on the Lower Mainland, with car convoys and rallies drawing hundreds to the streets of Vancouver and Surrey.
On Monday, more than 100 vehicles — many from the Mainland — converged at the legislature in a gesture of solidarity chanting ‘No farmers, no food!” and waving orange flags symbolizing the Sikh religion. Many of the hundreds of thousands of farmers protesting in Delhi are Sikhs from the northern state and neighbouring Haryana, which are major agricultural producers.
“Many British Columbians come from farming families in India & it’s been stressful for them to witness reaction to farmers’ peaceful protests. I understand their anguish & hope everyone is safe. I strongly believe in the democratic process & hope a peaceful solution is found soon,” Horgan tweeted.
Many British Columbians come from farming families in India & it's been stressful for them to witness reaction to farmers' peaceful protests. I understand their anguish & hope everyone is safe. I strongly believe in the democratic process & hope a peaceful solution is found soon.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) February 1, 2021
Jindi Singh is one of the protest volunteers, and says he is there to support the farmers’ demand for a total repeal of the laws.
“The situation there has gotten worse. The government is not budging and is becoming more Draconian, there’s been harassment and arrests of journalists. There’s at least 200 farmers who have died,” he says.
Monday’s demonstration included 200 pairs of traditional Punjabi shoes, in memory of the farmers who have died since protest began.
“These agricultural laws were rammed through parliament with no discussion or committee meetings. The farmers, the unions are outraged that they feel these laws will destroy the farmers livelihoods. There are 200 million households in India that depend on agriculture. We can’t just pass laws that will allow corporations to come in and destroy their future,” Singh says.
“The reason people have come to the legislature is they want the provincial government also to put more pressure on their counterparts in India to allow the farmers to protest peacefully.”
In late November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in support of Punjabi farmers and said his government had reached out to Indian authorities to highlight concerns.
With files from The Canadian Press