Seven US lawmakers write to Mike Pompeo to take up the issue with the Indian government
On December 19, thousands gathered at Sacramento State to protest India’s new farming laws. “I think it’s about time … to show the people that are protesting (in India) that we’re with them,” said Karam Singh, one of the organizers, as quoted in a story by the Sacramento Bee.
The protest, as per the report, was organized by several Sikh organizations, including the California Youth Sikh Alliance, the Capital Sikh Center of Sacramento and the Jakara Movement. Some protesters showed up in a school bus and sat on its roof playing drums, and many brought handmade signs with messages such as “No Farmers, No Food” and “People > Profit.”, it said. Protesters then drove west in a caravan on Highway 50, blocking traffic on roadways to downtown with motorcycles, cars and even tractors.
Protests have been taking place in other cities too, including New York and Seattle.
“For the past two weeks, Sikh Americans in at least 13 states have gathered in vehicle caravans and assembled at socially-distant rallies to protest in solidarity with a growing movement of farmers more than 7,000 miles away. Seattle has seen two such recent demonstrations — while the Seattle City Council on Dec. 14 passed a resolution in support of the issue,” wrote Jasmit Singh, in a Special to The Seattle Times.
In an important development, on Wednesday, the California Farm Bureau released a statement in support of Indian farmers. “We understand the deep concern and distress from thousands of farmers in the states of Punjab and Haryana to peacefully protest recent agriculture reforms in New Delhi. The agriculture economy in India is a main source of livelihood for over 55% of India’s population and accounts for approximately 15% of their gross domestic product. As such a critical part of India’s economy and culture, these voices need to be heard just as we expect our voices would be heard here,” said president Jamie Johansson.
“California Farm Bureau represents a diverse set of all farmers in our state, including Sikh farmers, and stands with you in your efforts to protect the livelihood and nourishment of the communities around you. We remain hopeful that Indian farmers will be heard by the Indian government and can find a productive path forward that benefits India’s agriculture sector.”
Recently, hundreds of protesters drove in a massive car rally from the Bay Area and the Central Valley to Oakland to protest new agricultural laws in India. Multiple car rallies organized by the nonprofit Sikh American organization Jakara Movement were launched from seven cities including Yuba City, Sacramento, Bakersfield and Fresno. Hundreds of protesters’ cars formed a phalanx of vehicles along Highway 99 and Interstates 80 and 880.
Protesters drove to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco to circle the building, honking horns and waving signs, before returning to Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park for a rally.
Now, the voices being raised across the country have reached the national capital as well.
A group of seven prominent American lawmakers—one Republican and six Democrats including Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal have written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting him to share their serious concerns with his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar about the ongoing farmers’ protest in India.
The letter addressed to Pompeo, dated December 23, 2020, said that the farmers’ agitation is a major concern of the Sikh Americans, whose roots lie in Punjab, India, and has a heavy impact on Indian Americans with origins in other Indian states as well. It further stated that many Indian Americans who have family members and ancestral land in Punjab are deeply affected and worried about the well-being of their families settled in India. Given that situation, the lawmakers urged the Secretary of State to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the freedom of political speech.
In addition to Jayapal, Congressmen Brendan F Boyle, Brian Fitzpatrick, David Trone, Debbie Dingell, Donald Norcross, and Mary Gay Scanlon signed the letter.
In early December, another group of three lawmakers belonging to the American Sikh Caucus had written expressing worries over the agitation to India’s Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu. Several other US Congressmen have conveyed their concerns over the farmers’ protest in India over the last few weeks.