February 8, 2021 — The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee (IC) joins the international call to support farmers in India engaged in the largest general strike in history. Since fall 2020, farmers in the states of Punjab and Haryana have been opposing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi administration’s three farm bills adversely impacting food sovereignty in the region. Years of corporate interventions (such as those by Monsanto), have already caused great distress and poverty to India’s farmers, who make up 40% of India’s workforce. BJP’s farm bills will severely weaken the bargaining power that farmers do have over the food chain, including what they can grow, and at what price they can sell, while empowering the private sector to set those terms. Farmers across India have joined this struggle, with elders on the front lines, prepared to continue protesting until the bills are fully repealed. In response, the Modi government has severely repressed the strike, cutting off internet in key areas and sanctioning police to beat and jail strikers.
“What we are seeing in Punjab and throughout India right now is a people pushed too far. With decades of farmer suicides, water and soil pollution, and inadequate access to electricity, India’s farmers are joining the global resistance to neoliberalism,” states Amreet Sandhu, former NLG Executive Council member. “This is a continuation of the global rejection to legislation that upsets local economies and homogenizes the food supply. In the West, we saw similar resistance in Chiapas, Mexico, with the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Like the farmers in Chiapas, India’s farmers will not allow this interference with their relationship to the land and ability to support their families.”
“Furthermore, as a post-colonial people, farmers in India recognize the impact of these laws in only increasing dependency on elite networks at the expense of those contributing raw goods and labor into a global assembly line. Given the rich history of resistance in India, we know better than to accept BJP assurances that these bills would ultimately benefit the region’s farmers,” states Sandhu.
Since last fall, cities worldwide have seen people rise-up in support of the farmers. In recent days, global support for India’s farmers led by strong voices such as Candian-Punjabi writer Rupi Kaur, has grown to include pop artist Rihanna, environmental youth activist Greta Thunberg, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris. Elected leaders worldwide have demanded the Indian government immediately end its human rights violations and the excessively violent response to the farmers’ protest.
“The international community stands with the farmers in their demands to withdraw these laws and to end the Modi government’s repressive response.” said Jeanne Mirer, Co-Chair of the NLG International Committee and President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers . “We are in solidarity with people’s movements who have opposed neoliberal agricultural policies which, for decades, prioritize growing profits of large multinational corporations at the expense of the basic needs and rights of millions of farmers who till the land, as well as the sustainability of the land and environment.”
“India’s farmers have shown the world that strong movements from below have the potential to challenge neoliberal policies and repressive power structures like Hindutva. The Modi government must rescind these reactionary laws, and end the violence and terror against protesters exercising their democratic rights.” said NLG President-Elect Suzanne Adely and Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance.
The NLG IC is proud to join the people of India in their call: Kisan-Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad! (Solidarity Between Farmers and Workers Forever!)