Rights

Canadian Labour, Civil Society Groups Express Solidarity With Protesting Farmers

"The farmers are literally sacrificing their well-being and putting their lives on the line to uphold these constitutional guarantees on behalf of all the people of India and are setting a glorious example to the entire world."

New Delhi: A group of labour, community and civil society organisations from Canada and elsewhere have issued a statement supporting protesting farmers in India.

“These laws were drafted without any consultation with farmers or their representatives, the farmers’ unions. The farmers have consistently opposed these laws, which go against the promises and commitments made to farmers by different governments over several decades,” the statement reads.

The organisations argue that the contentious farm laws openly benefit big corporates and harm farmers. However, instead of responding to farmers demands, “The government and its propaganda machines…have concentrated not on finding solutions but on delegitimizing the protests and all who support them as representing special interests (large and rich farmers) in prosperous states.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement continues.

Explaining why the groups chose to issue this statement, they say, “As organizations that work to extend and defend democratic rights, we recognize that an attack on such rights anywhere is an attack on them everywhere. The farmers are literally sacrificing their well-being and putting their lives on the line to uphold these constitutional guarantees on behalf of all the people of India and are setting a glorious example to the entire world. Their heroism and their sacrifice deserve our strong support and our undying gratitude.”

Also read: ‘Supporting BJP My Biggest Mistake’: BKU’s Naresh Tikait at Munderwa Mahapanchayat

Read the full statement below.

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The farmers’ agitation for the repeal of the pro-corporate farm laws has become the largest and longest sustained non-violent movement in Indian history, surpassing Mahatma Gandhi’s historic Dandi March against the abhorrent Salt Law of the British colonial regime.

The Modi regime rammed the farm laws stealthily through Parliament in September 2020, using its brute majority in the Lok Sabha, resorting to the questionable manoeuvre of a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha where it did not have a majority, and counting on the pandemic to muffle opposition outside Parliament. These laws were drafted without any consultation with farmers or their representatives, the farmers’ unions. The farmers have consistently opposed these laws, which go against the promises and commitments made to farmers by different governments over several decades. This is especially ironic given that Prime Minister Modi’s BJP campaigned on a pro-farmer platform, including making a minimum support price (MSP) mandatory and implementing the Swaminathan Report that is critical to saving India’s agriculture and farmers. The laws blatantly advance the interests of Modi’s crony corporate capitalists, such as Ambani and Adani, against those of the vast majority of the agricultural sector, effectively throwing farmers to the corporate sharks.

The government and its propaganda machines, acting in the interests of a narrower and more exclusively corporate elite than any government has in independent India’s history, have concentrated not on finding solutions but on delegitimizing the protests and all who support them as representing special interests (large and rich farmers) in prosperous states. Nothing can be further from the truth. This movement goes back to at least to 2017 and the unions associated with it represent a wide cross section of the farming community from across the country – from agricultural labour to marginal, small and medium peasantry. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) represents 250 organizations from 20 states, a unique broad coalition, from Dalit agricultural laborers to small and middle peasants. In fact it is the AIKSSC which through a private members bill (supported by 21 political parties other than the BJP) introduced in 2018 a reform agenda towards making farming debt-free and sustainable.

Also read: How Financially Feasible Would it be to Extend the MSP to All Crops?

For several months the hundreds of thousands of farmers protesting peacefully on the borders of the national capital have faced and withstood brutal repressive policing including water cannons, tear gas and barricades in the near freezing conditions of a Delhi winter. 220 farmers have died as a result of the harsh conditions, a few unfortunately by their own hands as despair overcame them. The full participation of women in the protests, whether as tractor drivers or marchers, is another notable feature of the farmers’ agitation. Denying and defying the patriarchal stereotypes of rural north India through their participation in the protests, the women have demonstrated their full status as farmers on par with men. Another feature is the participation of older farmers, some in their 80s, providing evidence of the determination of the entire farm community to defy the diktats of a repressive regime.

After the attempt of the regime to subvert the non-violent peaceful protest demonstrations on January 26, the farmers’ agitation has now entered a new phase. First, the already growing support for it from farmers across India is now even stronger, with vast gatherings or mahapanchayats of farmers held in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Second, with the state’s vilification and criminalization of the farmers and those who have come out in support of them, including youth, journalists and human rights defenders, the movement has now acquired the character of a broad-based attempt to defend the very democratic rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, most importantly, the freedom of speech and assembly and the right of peaceful dissent from and opposition to the actions and policies of the government. Third, the recent declarations of support for the farm laws by the IMF and the US government indicate the range of forces backing them, adding an anti-imperialist dimension to the struggle against them.

Also read: ‘Happened in US 40 Years Ago’: 87 US Farmers’ Unions Speak Out for Indian Farmers’ Protest

As organizations that work to extend and defend democratic rights, we recognize that an attack on such rights anywhere is an attack on them everywhere. The farmers are literally sacrificing their well-being and putting their lives on the line to uphold these constitutional guarantees on behalf of all the people of India and are setting a glorious example to the entire world. Their heroism and their sacrifice deserve our strong support and our undying gratitude.

We salute the heroism of the farmers and pay homage to the departed souls who sacrificed their all to the larger cause. We demand that the Government of India stop vilifying the movement and criminalising the human and democratic rights defenders and others who are part of the widespread support for it from diverse sections of Indian people.

We support the farmers’ demands that the Government of India take the following actions:

REPEAL THE UNJUST PRO-CORPORATE FARM LAWS
REPEAL THE ELECTRICITY ACT
REPEAL THE POLLUTION PENALTY ON FARMERS
EXTEND MSP AT SWAMINATHAN COMMISSION RECOMMENDED RATE OF C2+50% TO ALL FARM PRODUCTS
PROVIDE WRITTEN GUARANTEE OF MSP

Signatories:
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)/
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
British Columbia Federation of Labour (BCFL) British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)/
Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses des postes (STTP)
Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain – CSN
Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec-CSN Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU)
Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL)
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Unifor National
United Steelworkers (USW)/Le Syndicat des Métallos, Canada
Toronto and York Region Labour Council Vancouver & District Labour Council
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)/
Academics and Activists Against Hate, Canada
Alternatives, Montréal
Congrès du travail du Canada (CTC)
Syndicat canadien de la function publique (SCFP)
Alternatives International
Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas (ABAT)
Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, UK
Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) Les Artistes pour la Paix
Between the Lines Books, Toronto
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK
Canadian Foreign Policy Institute
Canadians Against Oppression and Persecution
Caring for Social Justice Collective/Collectif Soignons la justice sociale, Québec
CareMongering International
Centre de travailleurs et travailleuses immigrant/es/Immigrant Workers’ Centre (CTI/IWC), Montreal Centre for Study and Research in South Asia (CERAS), Montreal
Crescent Hub, The
Community Food Centres Canada/ Centres communautaires d’alimentation du Canada Dalit Solidarity Forum-USA
Collectif-CEDETIM, France
The Corner House, UK
Democracy Equality and Secularism in South Asia, Winnipeg Disha, Canada
East India Defence Committee, Vancouver
ETC Group, Quebec
Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France
Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ)/Québec Women’s Federation
Femmes de diverses origines/Women of Diverse Origins (FDO-WDO), Montreal Fernwood Publishing, Halifax and Winnipeg
Foundation the London Story Netherlands
Geopolitical Economy Research Group
Global Justice Ecology Project
Good Jobs for All Coalition, Toronto
Gursharan Singh Memorial Lecture Committee, Vancouver
Himalaya Seniors of Quebec (HSQ)
Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR)
India Civil Watch International (ICWI) India Civil Watch-Montrreal
India Solidarity, Germany
Khanyisa Education and Development Trust, South Africa
Makukhanye Rural Movement, South Africa Montreal Serai
Pakistan Organization of Quebec (POQ)
Indian Resistance Network, Norway
Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Association UK
Indian Workers’ Association GB (COC), UK
Justice for All
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), Canada
Kurdish People’s Assembly, UK
The Kurdish Women’s Initiative in the UK
Pash Memorial International Trust
Peace in Kurdistan, UK
People’s Health Movement Canada/Mouvement populaire pour la santé au Canada
Progressive Cultural Association, Calgary
Punjabi Cultural Association (PCA) Edmonton.
Punjabi Literary and Cultural Association, Winnipeg
Qualitative Research Lab-Global South
Quebec Movement for Peace
Respecting Elders Communities against Abuse/Ressources Ethnoculturelles Contre l’Abus envers
les Aîné(e)s(RECAA), Montreal
Rete jin Milano and CISDA (Italian Coordination in Support of Afghan Women)
Ryerson Centre for Studies in Food Security, Toronto
Sarokaran Di Awaaz, Toronto
Secular Peoples’ Association, Edmonton
Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha Derby (UK)
Sikh Virsa International, Calgary
SOAS India Society (School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK)
South Asian Dalit and Adivasi Network (SADAN)
South Asian Women’s Community Centre (SAWCC)/Centre communautaire des femmes sud-asiatiques,
Montreal
Southall Black Sisters, UK
The Social Justice Centre, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, B.C.
Socialist Project, Canada
Society for Socialist Studies, Canada
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)
South Asian Youth (SAY) Collective/Collectif jeuneusse sud-asiatiques (JSA)/, Montreal
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, South Africa
Taraksheel Cultural Society of Canada
Toronto Association for Democracy in China
Teesri Duniya, Montreal
Unitarian Church of Montreal/Église unitarienne de Montréal
Voices Against Fascism in India
West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR), Vancouver
Women Defend Rojava, UK