Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, Kent City Councilmember Satwinder Kaur and King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove were among hundreds who participated in a rally to support farmers in India.
The Seattle Kisaan (Farmer) Ekta Car Rally/March started Saturday, Dec. 26 at the accesso ShoWare Center parking lot in Kent and continued at the Westlake Center in downtown Seattle.
“The Indian government proposed and passed bills in September 2020 to deregulate the sale of crops in India,” according to an email from the Sikh Student Association at the University of Washington. “This deregulation, while purporting to be about free market choice, privileges the interests of large corporations over farmers who struggle to support their families.”
Hundreds gathered in Kent before driving to Seattle.
“Farmers fear that the ultimate impact of these laws will be to eliminate small farms entirely,” according to the Sikh Student Association. “The most impacted individuals from these laws will be caste minorities, women and religious minorities. For instance, the majority of land owners and laborers in Punjab are Sikhs, who have historically faced political and religious persecution in India, and have suffered the brunt of decades of anti-farmer policies, debt and poverty.
“As the farmers and farm workers protest in India, they are being met with tear gas and water cannons by the Indian police. The Indian government has tried to frame protesters as terrorists and has kept a media blackout in attempts to hide the protest from the rest of the world.”
The rally in Kent and Seattle was to raise awareness about the human rights issues playing out in Delhi, India. Rallies have happened so far in at least 15 states and Washington, D.C., according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition.
Upthegrove sponsored an official recognition Dec. 21 from the County Council for the protesters in India.
“As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” Upthegrove said in a news release. “We, the King County Council, wanted to raise our collective voices in support of Indian farmers and their families.”
India’s government recently passed three laws that aim to deregulate the buying and selling of agricultural products. The effect of the laws would be to privatize India’s agricultural markets and potentially crush the small farmers – 86% of Indian farmers own 2 or fewer acres – who support what accounts for 15% of India’s economy, according to the release.
“I want to thank the King County Council and Councilmember Upthegrove for standing in solidarity with the farmers peacefully protesting in India,” Kaur said in the news release. “The laws passed by the Indian government are unconstitutional and threaten the livelihood of small farmers. South Asian communities in King County are coming together to raise awareness on this issue and standing in solidarity with the farmers protesting peacefully.”
Farmers are fearful that with deregulation, large corporations will have outsized power in agricultural markets, putting small farmers at their mercy and potentially forcing them out of the industry.
For more information about the protests, go online to cnn.com/2020/12/11/world/farmer-protests-india-protests-hnk-trnd/index.html.