The Modi government is attempting to deregulate the agricultural sector, which makes up 60% of India’s workforce. Flouting democratic procedures, the BJP rammed three bills through parliament without open debate in September 2020. These measures, if implemented, would dismantle the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC)— “the mandi system”—which is used by farmers across the country to set a base level price for their produce. The United States, the WTO, and Indian capitalists have been attempting to foist such structural adjustment measures onto India for many years, in an attempt to fully subordinate vital processes like food production to the anti-social profit motives of a few billionaires and corporations.
The bills present dire consequences for hundreds of millions of farmers in India, removing basic income security and subjecting them to runaway exploitation, while also undermining India’s food sovereignty and therefore the basic interests of the vast majority of the people. Prior “reform” efforts dating back to 2006, which eliminated the APMCs in Bihar, led to the general immiseration of farmers. In recent years across India, suicide rates among farmers have been on the rise.
The ruthlessness of these latest attacks have brought masses of farmers and workers into the streets since November. The mobilizations to defeat the bills, which originated in Punjab, were called by thirty-one farmers unions under the umbrella of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee. Support for the protests has increasingly broadened, not only among farmers but also among workers and social justice organizations, in an open rebuke to the neo-fascist and anti-worker BJP and Modi government.
Shamefully, the BJP and the Modi government have responded to the protests with the systematic use of state violence against unarmed protestors, political terror and witch hunts, censorship of the Internet and suppression of the free press. Recently the Haryana BJP had the Dalit labor activist Nodeep Kaur arrested, who was sexually assaulted and tortured by the police. Similarly, the Delhi police arrested climate activist Disha Ravi for sharing a toolkit on how activists could support the farmers. The government has also perpetrated a general crackdown of journalists and venues covering the protests, as well as targeting intellectuals, artists, and other movement supporters.
At a time when far-right and neoliberal regimes across the world are using the COVID-19 pandemic to further erode democratic and social rights, the mass resistance taking place in India presents a ray of hope for workers’ movements and the organized Left across the world. DSA IC stands in solidarity with the farmers and workers of India in their struggle to defend their basic economic and political rights, and to push back against the ethnonationalist, anti-democratic, and anti-worker barbarism of the BJP. We salute the effective organizing of the farmers and workers, reflecting the democratic vibrancy of their political and labor institutions, and are eager to learn from their incredible example and apply the lessons to our struggle in the United States.
We join with the movement and with voices across the world in demanding a complete repeal of the neoliberal laws, an end to political witch hunts of their leaders and supporters, and the immediate release of all political prisoners across the country, from movement leaders and participants to supporters in civil society, including intellectuals, journalists, poets, lawyers, and social justice activists.
Lal Salam (red salute) to the farmers and workers of India!