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Hilal English

India: Where the Price of Protest is Death!

May 2024

Protesters face a grim reality: in India, resistance is met with brutality.



Since coming to power in 2014, sentiments against minorities–Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs–have escalated to a concerning level under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Drawing on several examples during a nine-year despotic rule of Modi’s government, communal polarization, spewed hatred and violence, corruption, muzzling dissenting voices through coercion, crackdown to purge minorities in and around the world, and vicious attacks on the rights of the working class–such as farmers–effectively expose the murder of democracy and dominance of a fascist regime in India. This article delves into the draconian measures implemented by the Modi government to subjugate farmers in light of the ongoing farmers' protests in India.
The Indian agriculture sector employs about half of the workforce and accounts for 15 percent of the country's USD 3.7 trillion gross domestic product (GDP). Over 40 percent of India's 1.4 billion people are dependent on agriculture. However, farmers' contributions in India have come at a price under Modi’s regime.
The agriculture sector has declined at an average rate of approximately 3.5 percent, compared to over 6 percent growth before BJP’s rule. In addition, India’s economic backbone, its farmers and their families, are collapsing and suffering immensely economically, mentally, and emotionally.
Furthermore, farmers have been facing dwindling incomes combined with increased debts. Farm lending has tripled over the last nine years to nearly INR 20 trillion, according to the central bank. According to government estimates, more than half of India's 93 million farm households are in deep debt, with an average loan of USD 900 per household.
These increased debts have resulted in an epidemic of farmer suicides in India. According to Gunisha Kaur, Human Rights Impact Lab Co-Medical Director, over 30 people in the farming sector die by suicide daily in India. According to government data, in 2020, more than 10,000 people in the agricultural sector ended their own lives.


Over 40 percent of India's 1.4 billion people are dependent on agriculture. However, farmers' contributions in India have come at a price under Modi’s regime.


It is worth mentioning that Punjab, often referred to as “the breadbasket of India,” is home to over 60 percent of the Sikh population, a minority in the country. In response to their legitimate concerns, farmers from Punjab initiated nationwide peaceful protests in 2020-21 against the implementation of three controversial farm laws by Modi’s government. The peaceful protests turned violent after the government intensified its crackdown against the farmers. Consequently, more than 700 peaceful farmers lost their lives.
In a hypocritical move to pacify the farmers, Modi made empty promises to repeal the laws and agreed to address the farmers' 12 demands, including the legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops, loan waivers, and others.
In distress, on February 13, 2024, over 200 farmers’ unions announced their participation in the ‘Dilli Chalo’ (Let’s get to Delhi) march, raising twelve demands, including the legal guarantee of MSP for all crops, which the Government had promised in 2021. The ensuing farmer protests are an offshoot of the 2020 farmers' protests, which took the Indian capital by storm.
The Indian government has deployed military and paramilitary forces and laid out rows of metal spikes, concrete, and barbed wires on the highways in Delhi's neighboring states to block farmers’ caravans from reaching Delhi. On February 20, in Haryana state (200 km from Delhi), Shubhkaran Singh, a 22-year-old youth, died of a head injury inflicted by Indian forces. Since then, the killing of 10 farmers, including the injury of 177 farmers and activists through brutal means, has been reported by the Indian media since the start of the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march.


According to government estimates, more than half of India's 93 million farm households are in deep debt, with an average loan of USD 900 per household.


In another attempt to muzzle dissenting voices through coercion, the BJP’s government suspended mobile services in Delhi’s neighboring states and issued executive orders to take down certain social media accounts and posts of farmers on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“We will withhold these accounts and posts in India alone; however, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts,” X’s Global Government Affairs team said in a post, without naming the accounts.
This isn’t the first time that the X has complied with Indian government orders. During the 2020-2021 Farmers' Protests, X received executive orders from the BJP government to block 1700 accounts of farmers critical of the BJP’s suppressing policies.
In April 2023, Elon Musk, the X owner, also agreed that the company could not go beyond the Indian “strict laws” while saying, “Being compliant with India's laws is better than having employees go to jail.”
In conclusion, in response to the death of Shubhkaran Singh during the ‘Dilli Chalo’ farmers’ march, Amnesty International Chair in India, Aakar Patel, castigated the Indian government and said, “The price of protest must not be death.” But in reality, the continued deaths of participants of the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march to date, compounded by killings of thousands of innocent unarmed minorities during Modi’s ruthless 9 years of rule, effectively endorse that the price of protest in India is only death.


 

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