Premier John Horgan addressed the protests taking place around the world for farmers in India, drawing a connection between the ongoing events and residents of British Columbia.

“Many British Columbians come from farming families in India,” Horgan wrote on social media. “And it’s been stressful for them to witness the reaction to farmer’s peaceful protest.”

“I understand the anguish and hope everyone is safe. I strongly believe in the democratic process and hope a peaceful solution is found soon.”

The ongoing demonstrations in India and across the globe have been calling on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to repeal three recently passed agricultural laws.

The farmers — many of whom hail from India’s northern Punjab and Haryana states — are concerned that the laws, which bring corporations into the controlled agricultural sector, will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and will lead to the ultimate loss of their land and livelihood.

In Metro Vancouver, there have been several demonstrations hosted by the local Punjabi-Sikh community, including a protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Surrey rallies travelling to the Indian Consulate in downtown Vancouver.

Demonstrators also protested outside of Vancouver’s Facebook office last December as part of an ongoing attempt to hold the social media giant accountable for what they say is the censoring of online posts that show support and raise awareness about the protests.

Another rally took place outside the BC Parliament buildings on Monday. Jindi Singh, who attended the protest, told Daily Hive that 200 pairs of juttis (a traditional-style Punjabi shoe) were placed on the steps of the legislature to symbolize the lives of roughly 200 farmers who have died during the ongoing protests.

Jindi Singh/ Submitted

farmers protests

Jindi Singh/ Submitted

Last week, hundreds of thousands of farmers took to India’s capital of Delhi on January 26 — the country’s Republic Day — to continue their protests.

During the Republic Day demonstrations, some groups of protesters clashed with police and entered the historic Lal Quila (Red Fort) and at least one farmer was reported dead. 

Amaan Bali, an independent journalist reporting on the ground in Delhi, shared his observations of the protests with Daily Hive.

Bali says he observed attacks on protesters started by police.

“Police instigated by deflating tires of tractors and taking out diesel from tractors. Farmers opposed the moves and situations escalated. The brute force was used by police, but again the number game and optics plays its role,” he stated.

“The violence was manifold. Police did put up barricades on the approved route as well. It seemed like they wanted the emotions to heat up and then lead that crowd to Red Fort,” he said, adding that police action near the protests included the use of rubber bullets, batons, and tear gas shells.

Delhi police said multiple arrests were made following the protests on January 26. Police also say 300 officers were injured.

Following the events of January 26, at least two independent journalists covering the protests were arrested. Several more have had their social media accounts suspended.

“What they had in common was the inclusion of hashtags referring to the protests,” states Reporters Without Borders in a statement.

A coalition of Sikh groups — including the World Sikh Organization, the Sikh Research Institute, the Poetic Justice Foundation, and The Sikh Coalition– released a statement today calling on several journalism organizations to address the “escalating issues of press freedom regarding the ongoing farmers’ protest movement in India.”

“India’s abysmal record on press freedom gives us reasonable cause to fear this type of action against journalists, combined with ongoing internet blackouts — if not denounced swiftly and firmly by the international community — will only escalate as farmers/ protesters, including women, men and children continue to voice their concerns around agricultural reforms” reads the statement.

With files from Simran Singh. 

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