Yellowknife protesters braved Saturday’s cold temperatures to stand in solidarity with Indian farmers who oppose changes to the country’s agricultural system.
Dozens of members of Yellowknife’s Indian community met at Somba K’e Park before taking part in a vehicle procession through Yellowknife.
Holding signs that said “No farmers, no food” and “Support your farmers,” the demonstrators – many with relatives who farm in India – said more people need to know what is happening.
“We are here to spread the positivity and tell the whole world that Indian farmers are protesting for their rights and it has to be heard,” said Sneha Gagnon, who participated on Saturday.
Unrest in India related to agricultural reform has been growing for months.
In September, the country’s government passed three bills that loosen rules around sales and storage and deregulate crop pricing. Many farmers believe the changes could potentially undercut their earnings and making food less accessible to the general public.
Mass protests have erupted in response. Tens of thousands of farmers have spent weeks blockading major highways outside New Delhi. On Saturday, protest leaders in India announced a hunger strike starting Monday according to local reports.
There have been a number of solidarity protests across Canada, including in Winnipeg, Charlottetown, Calgary and Toronto.
While the situation has come to a head in the past few months, another demonstrator, Pankaj Seth, said Indian farmers have been struggling for some time.
“They are facing so many challenges there for ages, and this is a wake-up call for all of us to tell our government to do something,” she said.
‘Farmers feed communities’
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 70 percent of rural households in India rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
Ranjog Virk, a participant on Saturday and resident of Yellowknife, said he has family in India who farm and are directly impacted by the new bills. His father has been helping to organize free food for protesters.
While this issue is personal for Virk, he said it’s not exclusive to India.
“This privatization is going on not in one nation, but in every part of the world,” he said.
Addressing the Indian government, Virk added: “I want to say that people paid you, so you should work for the people, not for the big companies.”
Seth, who also comes from a farming family, said farmers in India must be supported as they feed their country.
Pedjit Kaour said she hopes Yellowknifers understand the issue is important to the Indian community.
“It’s all about the unity we are showing for our farmers all over India. This is our community, and we have to show this now,” said Kaour.
“If there are no farmers, we are not going to survive on this planet.”