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India: striking farmers close down Delhi in a show of popular democracy

Farmers protests shut down the entire city

India: striking farmers close down Delhi in a show of popular democracy

Farmers protests shut down the entire city

India: striking farmers close down Delhi in a show of popular democracy

Farmers protests shut down the entire city

India: striking farmers close down Delhi in a show of popular democracy

Farmers protests shut down the entire city

Whether it is the women of Shaheen Bagh and beyond, or the farmers camping at Delhi’s border, Indians are determinedly staking a claim to public space, public resources and the very imagination of India.
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India is going through yet another restive winter. Between 200,000 and 300,000 women, men and children are camping on the highways leading to the country’s capital Delhi. They have come from neighbouring provinces, particularly Punjab, but also Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Meanwhile local agitations are being organised across the country – Punjab alone has more than 31 farmers’ unions and organisations, representing around a million farmers that have joined the movement.

The protests recall unrest across the country last year when people took to the streets in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, which sought to determine certain types of citizenship on religious grounds. Ordinary Muslim women from the under-resourced neighbourhood of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi camped on the smoggy and cold streets for 101 days, attaining iconic status. It took a harsh and suddenly imposed lockdown brought on by COVID-19 to finally dislodge the women.

Like the anti-CAA demonstrators, the farmers too are fighting for their rights, as they face up to the might of the state. Once again, the government of Narendra Modi has hurriedly pushed through legislation, which farmers feel will severely affect their ability to earn a decent living.

Broadly, these laws seek to further deregulate agriculture. They allow for greater space for corporations to deal directly with farmers, without the security of state-regulated agricultural market yards, and a minimum support price for certain essential commodities.

Farmers and farmers’ unions are convinced that large agri-businesses will have disproportionate power in this arrangement, with the new laws even denying legal recourse should a deal with a corporation go bad.

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