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Canada Hundreds rally outside Indian consulate in solidarity with protesting farmers

03:26  06 december  2020
03:26  06 december  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been facing criticism from farmers since passing new agriculture laws in September. Hundreds of people took to the streets and protested outside the Indian Consulate General in New York to express their support for the demonstrating

Protests were held outside the campus of the Aligarh Muslim University. Priyanka Gandhi led a silent protest at the India Gate along with about three hundred Indian National Congress workers to show solidarity with the students of Jamia Milia Islamia after the previous day’s incidents.[40].

a sign in front of a truck: Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Toronto on Saturday to show their support for protesting farmers in India. © Talia Ricci/CBC Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Toronto on Saturday to show their support for protesting farmers in India.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Indian consulate in downtown Toronto on Saturday to show their support for farmers in India who are protesting new laws they say will destroy their livelihoods.

Many of those who organized at the consulate are Canadians in the Sikh community who say the farmers work tirelessly to feed India and the world — and that the farmers need support now more than ever as their right to peacefully protest has been blocked by police who've used methods like tear gas, batons and water cannons against them.

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India on Friday lodged an official protest with Canadian High Commissioner to New Delhi Nadir Patel in the wake of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau The statement was in reference to reported protests at Indian representative offices in Canada by those expressing solidarity with India ’s farmer protesters .

"Our farmers are the backbone of our nation. This issue has hit close to home ... their lives matter to us, " protester Mansi Kaur said over the sound of dozens of car horns sounding off at the rally.

Kaur gathered with hundreds of others who were wearing masks and holding signs in support of the farmers, with slogans like "Justice for Farmers" and "No Farmers, No Food." Others remained in their cars at the demonstration.

She said she was there with others to protest three new laws in India that they say will see crop prices slashed and farmers exploited by large corporations.

Thousands of farmers in India have been camping out on the outskirts of the capital for the past 10 days until the new agriculture laws are withdrawn. They are heading towards New Delhi as they continue their calls.

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Indian officials bristled at Trudeau’s remarks, the first from a world leader on the growing protests . Farmers outside of Delhi have announced they have no intention of leaving. Protest leaders have met with government officials over the last two days for negotiations, but no agreements have been made.

India's government failed to break a deadlock with farmers on Saturday and will meet again on Wednesday, the agriculture minister and union leaders said.

Farmers have long been considered the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country's 1.3 billion people, but the farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades.

The Indian government said the purpose of the legislation is to bring reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment.

a group of people riding motorcycles on a city street: Farmers have been camping along at least five major highways on the outskirts of the India's capital and have said they won't leave until the government rolls back new agricultural laws. © Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters Farmers have been camping along at least five major highways on the outskirts of the India's capital and have said they won't leave until the government rolls back new agricultural laws.

Farmers fear the legislation will eventually dismantle India's regulated markets and stop the government from buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices, leaving them to negotiate with private buyers. The are calling for the government to repeal the laws and retain mandatory government purchases, among other demands.

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Protests broke out across nine states, including in major cities such as Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai Hundreds of people were injured in the protests , and dozens arrested, as well as significant Photos: Protesters rally against India 's citizenship bill. Policewomen detain a student protesting outside

"It would be like if we went to work, and there was no longer a minimum wage," said Nanki Kaur, who was also at the rally in Toronto. "They feed us. It's up to us to stand up for them."

Solidarity from the Sikh diaspora in Canada

Jaskaran Sandhu, director of administration at the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said the protests happening in India are "historic" and images from the protests have deeply affected those in the Sikh disapora in Canada.

"For all of us here, we have family and friends back home. So when we watch the images of police brutality, when we watch the images and the videos from on the ground of water cannons and tear gasses and charges from the police with sticks, it really hurts us," he said.

But Sandhu said it's also been inspiring to see the perseverance of the farmers who are continuing to assert their right to peacefully protest, despite the actions from police.

a car driving down a busy city street: Supporters hold a sign that reads 'No Farmers, No Food' outside the Indian consulate in Toronto. © Michael Charles Cole/CBC Supporters hold a sign that reads 'No Farmers, No Food' outside the Indian consulate in Toronto.

Sandhu added that many of those at the Toronto rally have family that are at the protests in India, including seniors, which has made the situation scary to watch from afar.

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"As Canadians, as Sikhs and Punjabis living here in the diaspora, we want to ensure that our people are safe and the right to peaceful protest is protected," Sandhu said, adding that those in the community across Canada are having these same conversations in their households.

Car rallies have also been organized in cities like Vancouver and Ottawa to show solidarity, Sandhu said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's comments earlier this week that called the Indian government's response to protesters "concerning" was a large help as well, he said.

Those comments led to a swift reaction from officials in India who said the Trudeau was "ill-informed." Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers have also framed the farmers as "anti-national"— a term the government has long used against its critics.

"We need folks to stand up and speak out so the Indian government knows they're being watched," Sandhu said.

Blankets, menstruation kits among supplies sent by fundraising group

Along with rallying, Sikh communities in Canada have been supporting the protesters in India by sending them supplies to continue their efforts, said Gurpartap Singh Toor, a volunteer with Khalsa Aid Canada.

"There's been an overwhelming amount of support," he said.

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a group of people walking down a street next to a sign: 'This issue has hit close to home ... their lives matter to us,' one demonstrator in Toronto said. © Michael Charles Cole/CBC 'This issue has hit close to home ... their lives matter to us,' one demonstrator in Toronto said.

The fundraising group is focusing on bolstering the health and safety of the demonstrating farmers, Toor said. Khalsa Aid Canada has sent fire extinguishers — as the farmers are cooking on the ground as they camp out — as well as devices to spray down the campsites to prevent mosquito bites that can sometimes cause illnesses.

Toor said menstruation kits have also been sent due to an "unprecedented" number of women at the protests, along with portable washrooms to provide safe and private spaces for women to use the bathroom. The cold weather at night has also been an issue, so Toor said the organization has sent blankets and shelters for the farmers, particularly for the seniors who are protesting.

"I would say a lot of people from Canada have family that are at the protests right now ... safety is the biggest concern," he said, adding that the fear of continued police violence remains high.

Toor said the farmers have asked him and others to create as much public awareness about the issue as possible. "It brings a lot of global eyes on India, so the government knows if they act with a bad intent, then the world is watching," he said.

Farmers’ unions call for nationwide shutdown in India over new agriculture laws .
Bharat stands for India and Bandh means closed. Bandhs have long been used as tools to protest against government policies. It's expected there will be significant implications for the northern state of Punjab, where most of the protesting farmers are from and where several groups have extended support for the bandh.When it comes to COVID-19, Sandhu said the farmers are concerned about the spread.

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