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Halifax community rallies in support of Indian farmers amid new agriculture laws

A protestor is holding a sign in Halifax in solidarity with Indian farmers protesting new agriculture laws. Global News / Reynold Gregor

Thursday afternoon, dozens of people gathered in downtown Halifax to protest India’s new agriculture laws in solidarity with the country’s farmers.

Protesters could be seen down South Park Street, Spring Garden Road and University Avenue holding signs to raise awareness of what’s going on.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi passed new legislation earlier this year that farmers say could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices, and result in their exploitation by corporations.

Read more: Reaction from local South Asian community after farmers protest in India

“These bills are not in favour of farmers, especially small farmers and marginalized farmers,” said Manvander Kaur Dhillon, the Maritime Sikh Society treasurer, at the rally.

“These bills are in favour of big corporations and big businesses, so ultimately these bills will take away small farming.”

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The Indian government insists the laws are part of much-needed reform in the agriculture sector, and will let farmers market their produce and increase production through private investment.

Dhillon says the society opposes the new bills and wants the government to take them back.

Protests in support of India’s farmers have been happening across North America in recent days.

Click to play video 'Sights and sounds of downtown Vancouver rally to support Indian farmers' Sights and sounds of downtown Vancouver rally to support Indian farmers
Sights and sounds of downtown Vancouver rally to support Indian farmers – Dec 2, 2020

This movement was sparked by reports of violence used against protestors in India.

Mankaran Singh, a protester in Halifax, says farmers in Punjab have been protesting for the last two months, but that wasn’t getting the attention of national media. Then, they went to New Delhi — the country’s capital.

“It was a peaceful protest… but government played cheat tactics; they used water canons, tear gas, put barricades,” Singh said.

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“The whole world should know what’s going on in India.”

Protesters said they want to let the farmers in India know they have support from around the world.

Dozens protested on the streets of Halifax in solidarity with Indian farmers protesting new agriculture laws. Global News / Reynold Gregor

Those at the rally said people passing by have been supportive of the demonstration and wanted to know more.

“They are supporting us by going on Twitter, they are supporting the hashtag #FarmerProtest,” said attendee Arshan.

Read more: Hundreds of vehicles join B.C. car rally in solidarity with Punjabi farmers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also took to Twitter earlier this week in support of Indian farmers protesting, during the virtual Gurpurab 2020 celebration.

“The situation is concerning and we’re all very worried about family and friends, I know that’s the reality for many of you,” Trudeau said in a video.

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“Canada will always be there to defend the right to peaceful protest, and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to Indian authorities to highlight our concerns,” he said.

Click to play video 'How a Canadian aid agency is helping protesting farmers in India' How a Canadian aid agency is helping protesting farmers in India
How a Canadian aid agency is helping protesting farmers in India – Nov 30, 2020

The Halifax rally grew to over 50 people by the late afternoon, and those who attended say their calls for change will reach the government.

— With files from Simon Little