India: "Deeper than farm laws"

Submitted by AWL on 6 April, 2021 - 5:35
Indian farmers' protest

On 30 March Momentum Internationalists held a meeting in solidarity with the Indian farmers’ struggle with London region Fire Brigades Union black and ethnic minority officer Amit Malde, and Pritam Singh, a left-wing academic and economist specialising in the economy of Indian Punjab and an ally of farmers’ leaders. Amit’s statement of solidarity, which drew out parallels with anti-privatisation and climate struggles here, was followed by a comprehensive and informative presentation from Pritam, and many questions. MI will put up videos soon. Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome, who was due to speak but ill, sent the following statement.

The Indian farmers’ movement feels very close to my heart as my grandparents were farmers in Punjab. These new exploitative farm laws will allow big companies to drive down crop prices. They threaten to leave families and entire communities without the means to live. More than 40% of people in India work in agriculture.

But the protests also cut much deeper than just the farm laws. They have also become about the BJP and their divisive Hindu-nationalist politics and neo-liberal policies. The farmers’ movement is an anathema to their bigoted regime — it transcends caste, religious, and regional differences. Many women are at the forefront. A few months ago 250 million workers went on strike alongside the farmers. This movement provides a vision of a different India — one which can be united in its diversity.

So it is no surprise Modi’s government is doing everything it can to suppress the movement. Indian government-controlled media has demonised farmers. The government ordered Twitter to suspend accounts that tweeted support for the farmers or criticism of its treatment of them. It has shut down the internet around the protest sites, and arrested protesters, sympathetic activists and even journalists. Water cannons, tear gas and brute force have all been used against farmers.

Here in the UK, the Conservative Government is a close ally of Modi’s regime. Modi spoke alongside David Cameron when he visited the UK, our Home Secretary is an active supporter of the BJP, and there are billionaire donors who bankroll both parties. In the 2019 election, Hindu nationalists mobilised for the Tories, and the Tories are responsive to their bigoted agenda, like their opposition to banning caste discrimination.

We have to expose these links and put pressure on the government over this issue. So thank you to everyone attending — we need to keep on raising the profile of the protests and showing our solidarity. Victory to the farmers!

• Solidarity statement here
• Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 1278 here

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