Since January 26th 1950, this date has been celebrated as India’s Republic Day, a day to honour the Constitution of India taking effect. It was written by Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, India’s first law minister who campaigned for social justice and fought against the caste system impacting the Dalit community. “He regarded Gandhi, not as a catalyst for change but as an agent for orthodoxy”.
On this date today, in 2021, farmers across the nation continued their peaceful protests to bring awareness to the unjust agricultural bills. These protests have been the largest in human history and yet, the very democracy that should be protecting their citizens’ right to protest, has shared their own dangerous narrative, spreading misinformation to instigate fear and hate. Instead of allowing these farmers to assemble peacefully and express their concerns, they have been met with tear gas and violent water cannons. In 2021, women who have farmed their lands for decades were told to return home rather than raise their voices in dissent. This does not sound like a democracy.
The inaction of Bollywood comes as no surprise. Creators who benefit from our stories, whether they write or perform them, should be speaking out in solidarity with farmers. Social activists like Arundhati Roy have added their voice alongside Panjabi artists and humanitarians like Ravi Singh of Khalsa Aid. As a result, Modi media has either labeled our people as ‘terrorists’ or started financial investigations against them. This is how groups are marginalized and silenced.
Mata Khivi Ji was instrumental in furthering the practise of Langar in the 16th century. The goal was to end hunger and provide food security for all communities. Five hundred years later, Sikh women are still leading the way. Farmers are sharing produce and feeding food insecure communities away from home while peacefully protesting for their rights. They have created opportunities for affordable education, and cleaned litter on the streets they sleep on. The actions of farmers and their allies over the last sixty days have uplifted humanity through this very practise. They remind us that sleeping out in the bitter cold for three months will not deter their efforts to advocate for all marginalized farming communities across India, not just those from Panjab. The Tractor Parade that took place today reflects fierce human resilience in the face of historic struggles of oppression. It is a shame that a media blackout prevented the truth of what was happening to be fully reported.
As social justice activists, and educators working towards anti-bias, anti-racist education, we cannot ignore this revolution rising up from the caretakers of our ecosystems. On this Republic Day, perhaps farmers will be considered as you enjoy a meal, visit farmer markets (one day!), enjoy juice shots or your next turmeric, ginger tea or lattes. It would be poignant to consider that India is not a monolith when choosing which books to share in your classrooms. Many communities continue to be oppressed in India and their voices silenced.
160 farmers have died since the protests began, some due to the extreme winter conditions, health issues or as victims of suicide. Farmers are still sleeping out in the winter chill, laying on blankets on makeshift trollies, in solidarity with the earth. Let us honour their courage, strength and multitude of stories by amplifying the truth.
#NoFarmersNoFood #IStandWithFarmers #FarmerProtests
Learn more about Farmer Protests:
Films for context:
Toxification (You can also read a feature with one of the filmmakers here)
Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict by Mallika Kaur
Punjab’s Farmers are Leading a Revolution by Rattanamol Singh