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ON November 26 2021, the great Indian farmers’ protest celebrated its first anniversary and its first major victory.
A few days before President Narendra Modi had announced he would repeal his hated farm laws.
It was these laws which a year ago had prompted over 250 million people to come out in an all-India strike, the biggest strike in history, including not only farmers but workers in engineering, transport, textiles, docks, banking and education.
Modi’s farm laws would have given multinationals such as Bayer (formerly Monsanto) and Indian corporations like Ambani and Adani power over the land, the workers, and what they produced.
They would have ended food sovereignty for the Indian population, endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions.
To mark the anniversary, the Global Women’s Strike, Women of Colour GWS and the Indian Workers Association (IWA) gathered at the High Commission of India in London.
Over 75 organisations in 12 countries endorsed the farmers’ protest and pledged their support. In their press statement, the coalition of farmers’ unions, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), publicised this international support.
A number of organisations with their banners chanted in English and Punjabi, including Soas India Society, RMT black solidarity committee, South Asia Solidarity and The Winch.
Messages of support were read out from Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, domestic workers in Peru’s Global Women’s Strike, the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand and women gas survivors in Bhopal.
People came despite a London-wide Tube strike sparked by staff cuts.
A Nigerian refugee who had been a farmworker spoke about the environmental destruction driving farmers to starvation, while corrupt politicians and corporations profit, just like in India.
London Mexico Solidarity told of struggles by indigenous/peasant farmers in Chiapas.
There was much cheering when a female speaker announced: “Between breastfeeding and subsistence farming, women feed the world.”
A student of Punjabi descent praised India’s farmers for inspiring young people everywhere.
Young Sikh campaigners who had a support “sleepout” at the Gurdwara in Letchworth sent their solidarity greetings to the London event. We will continue to work together.
Two days later, on November 29, hundreds of thousands of farmers and farm workers, including Dalit and Adivasi women, marched to Delhi to ensure that parliament actually repealed the laws as Modi had announced — this was done in four minutes!
Farmers have welcomed this victory and announced the protests will continue until other central demands are met.
They include: a legally binding minimum support price (MSP) for all crops for all farmers; repeal of the repressive labour codes; release of imprisoned activists; compensation for the families of over 750 farmers and farmworkers who have died in this struggle and a monument to honour them so they will be remembered.
The demands of the farmers movement have broadened and now include “incentives and support to be provided to our farmers for them to shift to sustainable farming practices … and for shifting out of the current monocultures…”
This revolutionary change would enable farmers to break from industrial agriculture as is happening in a number of areas but massively in the state of Andhra Pradesh where over 700,000 farmers, mostly women in self-help groups, are practising natural farming.
This natural farming method has been shown to be effective against climate change by regenerating the soil, greening the land and stopping the destruction of the natural world, while increasing the nutrition of the food and the income of the farmers.
The Indian protest has made way for a massive movement of farmers to change the way we farm and therefore what we eat, and to stop and even reverse climate change. We are all strengthened by this historic victory.
Didi Rossi is an activist with Global Women’s Strike.
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