Protesters speak out for farmers in India
Sonia Panda is prepared to give up her Saturday afternoons to draw attention to farmer protests in India against what they call unfair changes that will hurt their livelihoods.
“It breaks my heart to see what's happening now,” said Panda, whose extended family farms in Punjab. “To watch seniors and old people living outside. It's the least I can do to spread awareness.”
Farmers in India's breadbasket region have been protesting for months India's agricultural reforms they say will favour large corporations and make it harder for independent farmers to survive.
Panda, 24, who is getting her teacher's certificate at Simon Fraser University, has for the last 10 weeks organized a small gathering at No. 5 Road and Steveston Highway, before the Massey Tunnel.
She and a handful of others hold signs saying, “We stand with farmers,” and, “No farmers, no food,” and have received a lot of honks and questions and support from passersby.
Panda said it would be important for her to engage in advocacy and social-justice activism even if her family didn't farm in India. She said
she is encouraged by the local support and intends to continue the weekly protests until farmers “get justice. Even if it takes six months or a year.”
Much larger protests with dozens of protesters happen nightly at 120th Avenue and 72nd Street in Surrey. Panda said she wanted to spread the message to a larger geographical area, so started the weekly protests in Richmond.
On Saturday, RCMP shut down a large rally planned for Cloverdale before it began over concerns about COVID19 restriction breaches
because thousands were expected to attend.
Local supporters of the Indian farmers said they're planning a protest rally on Jan. 26, the day India celebrates its independence, that will begin in Surrey and end up outside the Indian consulate in Downtown Vancouver.
Panda said it's important for Canadians to care about India's agricultural sector because Canada imports spices from India.
“But even if we didn't, it's just important to stand up for injustices,” she said.