How India Became a Joke in the International Community
In the summer of 2020, the Indian parliament decided that COVID-19 and a declining economy hadn’t done enough that to spice things up, they needed to make a real effort. So they introduced three farm laws into the upper house of parliament and passed them amidst limited debate amongst the cabinet/parliament members. These laws would make interaction between farmers and private agents such as supermarket chains easier, but the ‘debate’ was conducted without any insight into how things would pan out in reality vis-a-vis Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and subsidies for farmers. This was a ‘monumental step’ towards free trade in the agricultural industry, in the government’s opinion.
Farmers in India were not pleased with this because the laws indicated no guarantee that MSP would not be affected and the government support through local wholesale markets would not be withdrawn. There is no written mention of any other support for farmers. Where the agricultural industries the world over are the most protected industries and especially so in India in the past, the current government didn’t seem to have any answers about the protection and welfare of the farmers going forward into this new era industry.
In retaliation to these largely uncertain laws, farmers in India — primarily in the Punjab and Haryana area — took to peacefully protesting against the government. The government remained largely inactive in the cause to further farmer welfare, and the protest continued well into 2021, reaching its pinnacle during the Republic Day celebrations when the protesters hoisted the Nishan Sahib flag atop the Red Fort alongside the Indian tricolor. The Nishan Sahib is a flag sacred to the Sikhs and is most commonly found outside Gurdwaras (Sikh temple).
What has followed since then is curtailing of internet access in and around the areas that the protestors have set camp in, eliminating electricity, food and water supply in those areas, large military grade surveillance and security equipment being set up, local trains being diverted so that additional protestors can’t reach the sites, journalists reporting these issues being captured, and the government-puppet-media reporting everything that they want the public to see.
What this protest is not:
- A set up by Sikhs to reignite the Khalistan movement
What this protest is:
- A peaceful demonstration against the laws that the government is trying to implement without doing due diligence on what would become of the farmers or how MSP would work in the future
What the Media Tells Us This Is:
- A group of Sikh farmers trying to launch a violent attack on the local police
- A group of Sikhs trying to launch another Khalistan movement, or The Return of 1984
- A group of Sikhs disrespecting the Indian flag by dismantling it and hoisting the Nishan Sahib
It pains me to see my fellow Sikhs being made to sound like tyrannical monsters. You know who was a tyrannical monster? The guys who dressed up in fancy dress outfits and stormed the Capitol because their beloved leader didn’t get a second term. Back then our beloved Prime Minister issued a statement talking about how the incident was against democratic principles. You know why this protest is different? Because the farmers meant no harm on anyone and they were still met with batons and whatnot. The fact that most of the agricultural produce comes from Punjab is being conveniently used to dig out old Khalistan related tensions and do a sequel of 1984. What does our beloved Prime Minister have to say now?
This protest is bringing out the thoroughly undemocratic nature of what has been known as the largest democracy in the world. Agricultural laws aside, what gives the government the right to launch violent strikes on a peaceful protest in a “democratic” country? What part of media censorship and banning Twitter accounts resonates with democracy? How does capturing a journalist sit with the democratic foundations of the republic? Why is it acceptable to hoist a BJP flag alongside the Indian national flag but when the Nishan Sahib is hoisted alongside it, it’s suddenly a problem? The BJP is inherently a Hindu nationalist party- which means its flag represents Hinduism too. The same Nishan Sahib is acceptable when it’s outside the Gurdwara and sevadars are preparing langar to feed anyone in need. Some may argue that if this isn’t a Sikh issue, what was the need to hoist the Nishan Sahib at all? Well, it’s a secular country, isn’t it? If a Hindu flag can be hoisted why can a Sikh flag not be hoisted? Having said that, the constitution also promotes non-violence and that has been pretty much binned as well so perhaps we shouldn’t expect much from secularism either.
This isn’t even a Sikh or Punjabi or religion issue at all- this is an issue of protecting the hands that feed your nation over the interests of big corporations. This is about not being a spineless slave to the wealthy. This is about having the right motives when you enter public service. India is the only country I have ever heard of that allows people with active criminal proceedings against them to enter public services.
Amidst the commotion in India, Indian voices have yet again failed us by not speaking out loud. If you are a public figure in India and you’re going to speak out in support of #blacklivesmatter, it is absolutely shameful that you wouldn’t speak out for #farmerslivesmatter with the same conviction. And not just public figures, I am astonished that Indian people on my social media accounts who fervently expressed their support for #blacklivesmatter have not found it in them to support farmers’ lives. Not to say that one matters more than the other but what does it take for someone to express support for both of them equally? Why did it have to take Rihanna of all people to bring this matter to international attention? Indian governments have been failing us for years but now Indians have failed us as well.
It is absolutely shameful that India has become a joke in the international community today and the outcome responsibility falls on the leader who has previously been involved in mass killings of Muslims.
It is shameful that where dictatorships have been chided by human rights organizations, India, a supposed democracy has made its mark.
But there is hope after all. As long as American celebrities continue to stumble upon random articles from American news channels about the internet censorship in India, illegitimate governments like India’s will continue to be questioned and justice will prevail. Rihanna has now achieved next level priority status in Punjab and her celebrity status now probably rivals that of Gurdas Maan. The internet has been quick to create memes about what a 2024 Rihanna concert in Jalandhar would look like, how she would look draped in a sari as an Indian politician, and my personal favourite, how she would look in a turban, dressed as Major Kuldip Singh, Sikh hero from the 1971 India-Pakistan war. Rihanna isn’t the hero anybody expected, but it’s the hero they needed.