Amber Sunner on the farmer protests in India

Rundown and heritage?

My name is Amber Kaur Sunner and I’m an editor, journalist and student from the UK. My middle name, Kaur, represents my religion of Sikhism. It translates to lioness – which is what my religion and people are – lions and lionesses. My heritage lies in Punjab, India and I am the daughter of two farming families. I am proud to have farmers blood, who are known as kisaan.

What are the protests about? Why/When did they start?

The protests currently occurring in India are against 3 new agricultural laws passed by the Indian Government in September of 2020. The new laws, which would create a deregulated market in terms of who the farmers can sell to, have triggered protests all across India. Ordinarily the farmers would be guaranteed income by selling to the government. However, the new laws mean that the minimum support price will be removed, and mass privatization will occur. Farmers will have little security in terms of a fixed income if they must bargain with large corporations. The new laws also enable corporations to stockpile agricultural products, further affecting the farmers. The protests have been occurring for over 5 months.

Image taken by @subhankr_dash

Latest on the protests?

The peaceful protests are currently being met with violence from the Delhi police. A recent development has seen the Indian government cutting the internet to hunger-striking farmers in Delhi. Alongside multiple human rights violations, the protests aren’t subsiding and are growing in numbers as more supporters of the movement join. Videos and photos are continuing to emerge showing peaceful farmers being attacked during the protests. 

What impact is it having on you seeing these reports of the protests?

To see the reports of people being tear gassed and attacked makes me feel like India no longer welcomes me or my family – despite our ancestry being deep rooted there. It makes me feel uneasy and I know my friends who also have family in Punjab feel the same. Our families, especially our elderly family members, are of a great deal of importance to us. To see these people being assaulted by the Delhi police breaks my heart. Indian farmers have worked very hard for their country and now it feels like that country has turned their backs on them. I worry about my family in India – it’s heart breaking. The impact stretches far from India however – these farmers grow food and spices for the wider world. It is monumental. 

Image taken by @subhankr_dash

What has the response been to riots and do you think it is not spoken about enough?

I think the response is lacking. It’s like an echo chamber at the moment. If you follow the right people who are speaking about the injustices being faced, your timeline is rightfully flooded with updated news on the matter. But it’s not widespread yet; considering the protest is deemed to be the largest one in history, it is surprising.

I really do believe that news outlets should be speaking about it more widely. A UK governmental response would also be impactful. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked about the protests in the House of Commons by Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. However, he wrongfully labelled the issue as a matter between India and Pakistan when this is not true. This kind of ignorance is very harmful – people are dying as a result of the protests and the fact that our Prime Minister was unaware does not help the situation.

Image taken by @subhankr_dash

How can we support farmers in India?

There are many things which can be done to support the farmers’ cause. Firstly, I’d suggest reading about what is going on. I think it is vital to educate yourself on what is happening before you share anything. And after educating yourself, please keep sharing. There are also many petitions which aim to help the farmers’ movement, as well as letter templates you can send to your local MP to ask for intervention from the UK government. If you can, there are also places you can donate to. 

Petitions:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/563473

https://www.change.org/p/narendra-damodardas-modi-abolish-the-3-farm-bills-support-the-protesting-


Letter Templates:

http://sikhfeduk.com/campaigns/farmers-protest-call-for-action-letter

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mT2loeGZmbQ8ttcWWszqWPDlI3yPI3iV0YuYiusUueY/mobilebasic


Places to donate:

https://www.khalsaaid.org/donate

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-farmers-and-their-families-in-panjab


Helpful Instagram accounts:

@khalsa_aid

@sikhexpo

@landworkersalliance

@savingpunjab

@ kisanektamorcha


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