Farm laws to be repealed in upcoming Winter Session of Parliament . . .
Last Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a nationwide televised address that his government will repeal the three controversial farm laws that set off nationwide protests and strikes after they were passed last fall. In his speech, Modi apologized for not being able to convince “some of our farmer brothers,” while refraining from apologizing for the government’s intentions, “which were as pure as the light from a lamp.” The actual repeal of the laws will occur in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament, which begins on November 29. The laws, which the government and many economists argue would remove regulatory barriers and empower farmers to directly connect with buyers, have been vehemently opposed by small farmers who fear it would open the door to exploitation by large corporations.
Interesting timing as Sikhs celebrate, opposition gathers . . .
The timing of Modi’s announcement suggests a link to political strategizing. Friday was the Guru Nanak Gurpurab, or the birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, which Modi frequently alluded to in his address. Though anti-farm-laws protests have occurred across the nation, most disgruntled farmers and their supporters hail from major agricultural states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the latter being the only Sikh-majority state in the country. Modi may be relenting to some of the farmers’ demands to mitigate widespread displeasure with his government and ruling party ahead of upcoming assembly elections in these two states next spring. Furthermore, the repeal announcement has energized opposition parties, who are meeting this week for all-party talks on strategy for the upcoming parliamentary session.
Farmers press on with remaining demands . . .
Meanwhile, protesting farmers say they intend to continue protest actions despite welcoming the repeal of the laws. The main umbrella farmers’ union, Samyukta Kisan Morcha, wrote an open letter to Modi outlining the remainder of their demands, which include a legally mandated minimum price for agricultural commodities, the sacking of a minister, and accountability for the almost 700 farmers they claim have died during the protest campaigns. Protest leaders have also highlighted pressure from Canadian politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, on India to preserve the right to protest peacefully, and Indian diaspora communities in Canada for their support of the anti-farm-laws campaign.