What to know about India farmer protests in 500 words
Protests have been going on for months against new agricultural laws passed in September 2020, which critics say are aimed at putting farmers at the mercy of big corporations and thereby, encouraging the already age-old capitalism in the nation. The responses of the government have been brutal, stifling, and extreme in all proportions as dozens of arrests have been made on trumped up charges, and many have been put in unlawful incarcerations. While the protests go on, the Modi-led government has placed the protesting area, mainly New Delhi, under both physical and digital siege. Even journalists giving the protests media coverage have been arrested.
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Why are farmers protesting?
As farming is known to be the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India's 1.3 billion people, farming has, over the years , been central to the nation's economy. The India government has for years offered guaranteed prices to farmers for certain crops, but the new laws allow farmers to sell to anyone at any price. This appears friendly enough, but the farmers say it's a smokescreen to what lies ahead—that is, farmers will be at the mercy of big corporations as they could eventually find it difficult to meet minimum price when supply becomes excessive in the market.
After rounds of talks which ended in deadlocks, authorities have begun cracking down on thousands of protesting farmers having sit-ins on the Delhi border since November. The government, known for its extreme responses to dissenting views, has also been using the police to curtail the protests. The police have erected barriers, put up wire fences, and even arrest journalists in order to frustrate the movement. There have also been rounds of internet shutdowns in the area.
Amidst this heavy crackdown, the farmers are demanding the repeal of the three new laws. In response to a news report by CNN which reported the clash between the farmers and the police as internet shutdown got imposed, Pop singer Rihanna tweeted: "Why aren't we talking about this?" No sooner had she tweeted this to her millions of followers than the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg tweeted: "We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India."
Rihanna's tweet appeared to have sparked opposing reactions as pro-Modi individuals in upper echelons of the civil service released statements in response to her tweet. The Ministry of External Affairs released a statement saying: “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.”
Amit Shah, India’s home affairs minister, tweeted that “no propaganda can deter India’s unity”.
The protests will likely continue as the government has shown no readiness to accept the demands of farmers. The government has only presented a suspension of the laws for 18 months, but the farmers rejected it. The government has blamed the protests on propaganda and misinformation by the opposition party.
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