U.S. activists to raise funds to help agitating farmers

At a global webinar, they also promise to lobby with U.S. President

Three months after launching their protests on Delhi’s borders, farm unions of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha hosted a seven-hour global webinar to build international pressure against the Centre to repeal the three farm reform laws.

Apart from members of the Indian diaspora, American farm and labour activist leaders vowed their support, promising to raise funds and to lobby with U.S. President Joe Biden on the issue.

“Punjab farmers, and the farmers in India, are really fighting for every single small farmer in the world, so we have to get behind them and have to raise money for them so that they can keep their movement going,” said Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers of America and recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, calling for global fund raising to support the protesting farmers in India. “We have to give them that kind of support, and put pressure on the government in India, to stop attacking them, stop torturing them, and to give them the justice they are asking for.”

She urged all participants on the webinar to write to President Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and American Congressmen and Senators on behalf of protesting farmers in India, to say that “we need your support now and we demand that you do something to help them, because we have to get the U.S. government to step in”, she said.

As an organiser of farm workers in California, she warned Indian farmers that the American model of agribusiness would lead to large landowners who do not work the land. Small farmers would lose their own lands.

The National Farmers Union, which represents two lakh farm families in the U.S., also issued a statement of support. “We have learned the hard way that fair prices and farmer sovereignty are the bedrock of flourishing rural communities and an equitable food system — in the United States and everywhere else. As National Farmers Union works to secure these basic rights for American farmers, we stand in solidarity with Indian farmers as they do the same,” it said.

“Food sovereignty is an important principle, and all farmers and workers have the right to be paid a just and living wage,” said Joel Greeno, who heads Family Farm Defenders, also expressing solidarity for the farmers’ movement in India.

Corporate agriculture

The Brazilian Landless Workers Movement representative Cassia Bechara also gave a message of support. “The reforms of the Modi government will only benefit corporate agriculture. But it is only peasant agriculture that can ensure food sovereignty for the Indian people. Don’t give up. There are hundreds of thousands of peasants around the world who are supporting you,” she said.

The seven-hour webinar answered questions from a large number of NRIs, including those from the diaspora in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Several queried whether the farmers were against reforms that would bring private investment into agriculture. “We are not against private enterprises. After all, farmers are also private enterprises,” said Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch leader Kavitha Kuruganti. “We are against big capital that eats up every other player in the marketplace, which has monopolistic tendencies and powers. We need investment, we need reforms, but in a way that empowers farmers, not in a way that only empowers big corporates,” she added.

Intensified stir

Another repeated question was regarding the way forward for the movement, with concern expressed that momentum had been lost after Republic Day. “The movement is only intensifying going forward, both geographically and in terms of people power,” said Jagjeet Singh Dallewal, who heads one of the largest factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Punjab. He explained that the mahapanchayats served to take the farmers’ cause to more locations, and create a larger pool of people who could swell the crowds at the Delhi border protest sites as well. The movement was also focussing on upping the pressure on BJP leaders, he said.

According to an SKM statement, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s home in Gwalior was gheraoed earlier this week, while Haryana Minister Kanwar Pal Gujjar was forced to cancel an event in Sirsa due to farmers’ pressure. Mahapanchayats have been held in Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan over the last two days.

Friday was also marked as Yuva Kisan Divas, with young people taking over all the protest stages.

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