Indian Americans held rallies in many cities in the United States on the weekend in solidarity with farmers and Sikhs who have launched an agitation against the controversial farm Bills passed by the Narendra Modi government.
The protests were reported from at least seven major US cities on Saturday and Sunday, including in Washington DC, Denever, North Carolina, Dallas, Boston, New York and Chicago.
The biggest rally took place in Denver where hundreds of cars assembled at a parking lot close to Denver South High School and proceeded to North Lincoln and passed by the news stations and The Capitol. The convoy caused a grid-lock as the demonstrators chanted slogans in support of the Indian farmers.
According to participants, a convoy of 400 cars carrying nearly 1,000 protesters marched down the streets on Saturday afternoon.
“The convoy was organised to show solidarity with farmers and our concern over the new laws,” said Hadi Abdul Mateen, a Denver-based volunteer with the North American Indian Muslim Association. “We urge that the government should enter into negotiations in good faith with farmers and accept their demands,” Mateen informed the participants who included Indian diaspora as well as some locals. “Majority of protesters were Sikhs but there were also a significant number of Muslims and Hindus of the Indian diasporic community.”
Visuals that emerged from the rallies showed the Sikh participants in green or yellow turbans to symbolise solidarity with the farmers. In one instance, a banner on a bus had the slogan “No farmers, No food”.
Flags of the Sikh religion as well as the Indian tricolour emerged from cars parading down the road. Slogans on posters read: “We support farmers; Save The Farmers.”
Some slogans denounced fascism, lynching, hate crimes and the Citizenship Amendment Act in India.
“We’re here mostly to say that the Central government should listen to the 250 million people who have been speaking out against this. They are a democracy. They should be answering with compromise and hearing their (farmers’) concerns,” Perdeep Singh Badhesha, a protest organiser, was quoted by a local news website CBS Denver.
In North Carolina, around 200 gathered at the Sikh Gurdwara located at Banner Street, Durham. They did a car rally from Durham to Raleigh, North Carolina before marching on foot on the streets around Capitol Hill raising slogans. Some of them also delivered speeches expressing support to farmers. The protestors mostly included young men and women as well as children who held banners showing slogans: “Muslims for farmers rights and We stand with farmers”.
Safa Ahmed, a college student said she was motivated by a sense of solidarity to join the protest rally. “This is a movement against Modi and all he represents. As a Muslim who has seen the Sikh community defend and mobilize for my people countless times, it’s my duty to mobilize for the rights of Punjabi farmers as well.”
Suvleen Singh, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the new farm laws are “an attack on our most basic rights, which is why it is so important for us to continue to raise awareness.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Preeya Deol, also a college student. She said the protest was organised to amplify the voices of the farmers. “We must continue to fight for these farmers, to encourage others to speak and continuously use their voices for the 250 million plus people marching for their rights today.”
The weekend protest in the US cities was jointly organised by multiple rights and faith groups including working for human rights and social justice.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have laid siege on the border of New Delhi, Indian capital, demanding repeal of the controversial farm laws that experts say are going to diminish the role of the government-regulated market yards (APMCs). But the laws have triggered a widespread outrage from farmers who say the move will expose them to capitalist assault.
The government argues that the Bills will give farmers more freedom, and has so far dismissed the criticism even as there have been multiple rounds of inconclusive negotiations between government officials and leaders of different farmer unions.
For months, the farmers kept their protests confined to the respective states but when the Central government refused to budge, the farmers’ unions intensified the protests by announcing a march to Delhi last month-end. Once they reached close to Delhi, the police confronted them and thwarted their entry leading to a stand-off which is now over two weeks old.
The farmers have attracted widespread support not just in India but abroad as well, particularly in western countries like the United Kingdom, the US and Canada. Lawmakers of Indian origin have publicly raised the issue of farmers, including police violence against protesters and urged the Indian government to consider the demands of the farmers.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, where Sikhs from Punjab constitute a significant chunk of population, offered his support to the protesting farmers. But it was met with a sharp response by the Indian government which said the statement amounted to meddling in India’s internal affairs.
Last Sunday thousands of people, according to Reuters, protested in central London over the controversial agriculture reforms.
Protests were also reported from Birmingham on Saturday where scores of British Indians marched on foot in Jewellery Quarters in a show of solidarity with farmers in India.
“We launched a weekend of solidarity to register our support with the farmers in India and also protest the policies of the Modi government,” Dr Shaik Ubaid, one of the organisers of the protest who is founder and co-chair of a group called Alliance to Save and Protect America from Infiltration by Religious Extremists (ASPAIRE) said while speaking with Clarion India from NewYork where protestors assembled in front of the Indian Consulate on 5th avenue.
In Boston scores of participants braved freezing cold and wet weather as they assembled in the public square. The rally was organised by Boston South Asian coalition to protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and the farm bills.
Similarly Long Island and Dallas conducted the rallies on Sunday. In Dallas the protest was organised by sikh community and was supported by coalition of Indian Americans , including Indian American Muslim Council. Around 300 people gathered front of city hall Dallas carrying umbrellas. Speaking on behalf of coalition Vijaya Lakshmi Nadar criticised the Modi government for what she called as “dictatorial attitude”.
Similarly in Long Island the protestors rallied in cars, trucks and on foot in central LN Levittown on Sunday afternoon.
In Atlanta, a solidarity rally for farmers is expected to be held on December 15 by Seva Gurdawara Sahib in front of the Indian Consulate.
Meanwhile back in India, one Union Minister on Sunday evening said the government will soon announce dates for next round of talks as the protests of the agitating farmers intensifies with plans to block more highways leading to Delhi.