India says it will repeal controversial farming laws that have sparked protests worldwide, including in Metro Vancouver.
Hundreds of people celebrated at Scott Road and 72 Avenue in Surrey moments after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the surprise announcement.
Jatinder Singh, the national director of Khalsa Aid Canada who is based in Victoria, described his reaction as “disbelief, and slowly that’s turning into jubilation with a touch of caution.”
“For this to be a concluding success, the government has to repeal these laws, but must engage with all stakeholders, including the farmers, the farmers’ unions, because India’s farmers, prior to these laws, were still suffering,” he said.
The laws were passed in September 2020, with the Modi government saying they modernized the country’s agricultural sector.
Farmers protested, saying the legislation would end guaranteed pricing and force them to sell their crops to corporations at cheaper prices.
Several rallies in support of the farmers took place in British Columbia.
The announcement came ahead of key elections in states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, and on the day of the Guru Purab festival, when Sikhs, who made up most of the protesters, celebrate their founder Guru Nanak’s birthday.
Mo Dhaliwal, the Vancouver-based co-founder of the Poetic Justice Foundation, which advocates against structural oppression and discrimination, said he believes the international protests, including those in Canada, played a large role in bringing attention to the Modi government’s actions.
He echoed Singh’s remarks, saying the repeal is a moral victory won by millions working in India’s agricultural sector, but that the needs of the country’s farmers have not been fully addressed.
“In the short term, I think it’s a moral victory,” Dhaliwal said.
“But in the long term, this doesn’t necessarily do much to improve the precarious circumstances they were working in for decades. It gives them some reprieve, but really, for the most part, the farmers of India go back to a status quo where their lives were already quite precarious.”
— With files from Neetu Garcha and The Associated Press