By Hannah Ellis-Petersen | The Guardian |
Puffing out his chest, his lime green turban luminescent in the morning sun, Surinder Singh made it clear he was a man who would not easily be moved. “We will stay here five years, 10 years if we have to,” the farmer said with a steely smile. “As long as it takes.”
A roar of approval greeted his words from fellow farmers who had gathered for breakfast at Singh’s chai stand at the Singhu camp, one of three main protest camps on the outskirts of Delhi. Singh, a small-scale farmer from India’s northern state of Punjab, is just one of hundreds of thousands to have made Singhu his home since November, living out of the back of his now fully furnished tractor trailer.
The farmers object vociferously to new laws that constitute the most sweeping reform to agriculture in India for decades. The government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, says the laws will bring necessary modernisation and private competition to an ailing sector that has left millions of farmers destitute.
Farmers say the laws were passed without consultation and will allow for private corporations to control the prices of crops, crush their livelihoods and take away their land.
“I was born on my land, my father was also a farmer. I will not let Modi take it away from us,” said Singh, echoing a widespread belief among those in the camps that the new laws will result in them losing their farms. “The government must abolish the black laws. Modi says bad things about us but we are simply protesting peacefully here and eventually we know we will win.”
Eleven rounds of negotiation between farmers and the government have failed to reach any compromise. The government has offered small amendments, but for the farmers, it is a black and white issue: the “black laws” must go, and until it happens they are prepared to stay put – indefinitely.
Read the full article, ‘Roaring crowds, roti and Rihanna: the view from a Delhi farm protest camp’ (The Guardian, 12 Feb 2021), here.
First ever mahapanchayat in Panjab (Asia Samachar, 11 Feb 2021)