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Massive protests by farmers in India

By Rick Majumdar

On January 26, farmers from across India continued their protests against the anti-farmer laws. That day, Republic Day, marked the 71st anniversary of when India's constitution came into effect and is a major state occasion. Two months ago to the day, Indian farmers held the largest protest in human history. Since then, these farmers have protested continuously.

The farmers in India oppose the three bills that would have long-term detrimental effects. Instead of building more APMC mandis (rural markets) that would promote better cooperation between the farmers and government institutions, improve procurement, build more storage facilities, and build better transport networks, the right-wing BJP (ruling party of India) government sought to remove the APMC's altogether and completely privatize the agricultural sector.

Privatising the agricultural sector has previously caused damaging effects. Since 1995 and the rise of globalisation, the lives of farmers have worsened year on year, leading to the death of nearly 300,000 farmers by suicide. Worsening conditions in terms of the environment has had a deep impact on agriculture. Private companies pay very little attention to the sustainability aspect of farming.

On Republic Day, the largest tractor rally, of 200,000 tractors, rocked the streets of New Delhi. Several thousands of farmers and protesters stormed the city’s historic Red Fort. These farmers broke through the police barricades and were met with violence from the police. Historically, Republic Day called for immense military processions. This year the tractor rally was used to draw the attention towards the protesting farmers and the repressive farmer bills. Various farmer, student and workers unions have lent their support alongside socialist and communist groups.

As of today, January 29, the farmers continue to protest all across the country. In Ghazipur, Uttarpradesh, the police failed in their attempts to remove the peaceful protesters opposing the farmer bills. These protesters were soon swarmed and viciously attacked by right-wing thugs from the BJP while the police there watched in silence. The state government then proceeded to cut off the internet to prevent circulation of news from the state. The farmers and protesters there have resisted these attacks and now continue to organize and demonstrate.

Since the BJP took power, they only sought to benefit the few by introducing anti-people laws. They have proved that they do not have the interests of the people at heart and their policies have stunted the growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Unemployment is also at an alarming 27% as well – owing in part to poor management of COVID-19. Protests will grow stronger over the next few months unless the situation regarding the farmers are properly addressed. The BJP has to keep in mind that the farmers are the providers of food in India and their voices are strong and will not easily be silenced.

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