The news of Indian farmers going on strike has rapidly become a global conversation that seems to keep gaining momentum.
Statements by international celebrities and even an alleged ad related to the movement was said to have made an appearance during Sunday’s Super Bowl, all which has kept this case on the headlines.
But what is going on and why are farmers protesting?
Since last November, Indian farmers have been taking to the streets and occupying public spaces to protest three new farm laws proposed by the government, which aim to modernize farming in India by transitioning to a less-restricted trade scheme that would eventually lead to the withdrawal of current fixed state support for farmer’s produce.
According to the BBC, an official government survey carried out in 2016 by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, found that in the three years up to this point, the average amount of debt that farmers were liable for had more than doubled.
With shrinking productivity, less government support and unrestricted trade, small-scale farmers that have very low annual incomes are facing the threat of stagnation, since they cannot afford competing in a free market run by large corporations nor take their produce elsewhere to trade.
Farmers have been protesting against these laws for many months now. They were initially led by Sikh farmers from Punjab and Haryana but have now extended to the rest of the country and also to other parts of the world with strong Sikh communities.
As the tensions derived from the protests continue growing, so has international attention.
In spite of constant threats and hate directed towards her, young climate activist Greta Thunberg has repeatedly mentioned her stance with the pro-farmer movement.
“I still #StandWithFarmers and support their peaceful protest. No amount of hate, threats or violations of human rights will ever change that. #FarmersProtest,” she tweeted.
Thunberg’s tweet was posted a few hours after pop superstar Rihanna also addressed the issue on Twitter.
As reported by CBS, the Indian government took on the celebrities Wednesday after their tweets attracted global attention, dismissing the social media messages as “sensationalist” and “neither accurate nor responsible.” The Indian government reiterated on the same day, its justification for the reforms and claimed it was only a “very small section of farmers in parts of India” who “have some reservations about these reforms.”
The protests turned violent last week in New Delhi, where dozens of officers were injured and one protester died when a tractor overturned during the protests near Delhi police headquarters.
With more than 100 protesters still missing, some districts in the capital have been experiencing an internet shutdown.