Farm protests: Pressure Narendra Modi govt, Sikh Coalition tells Biden

RITU JHA

The Sikh Coalition, one of the largest civil and human rights organizations in the United States, has urged the Joe Biden administration to condemn the Narendra Modi government’s response to the farmers’ protests, and protect the agitating farmers’ civil and human rights.

This was the second letter the Sikh Coalition wrote to President Biden over the massive farmers’ protests in India against three new farm laws enacted by the government of Prime Minister Modi.

The first letter was written on January 21 to make the White House aware of what is happening in India and also the farmers’ plans to host a tractor rally.

The second letter was sent on January 27 after violence marred India’s Republic Day in New Delhi on January 26.

Asked if they had received any response from the Biden administration, Sim J Singh, senior manager of policy & advocacy at the Sikh Coalition, told indica News: “We are still awaiting an official response from the Biden administration.

In the meantime, we continue engaging US lawmakers nationwide to raise concerns about the Indian government’s anti-democratic response to the protests; we are grateful that the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission recently tweeted a statement of condemnation and are building upon the statements of other members of Congress and local-level government officials,” Singh added.

Responding to the incidents in New Delhi on January 26, the commission’s Twitter handle posted: “As a signatory to the #UDHR and state party to the #ICCPR and #ICESCR, #India is obligated to respect the rights to #PeacefulProtest and #Food. PM @narendramodi should base response to #FarmersProtests in #HumanRights.”

The Sikh Coalition’s letter sent January 27 to President Bident states: “In light of the most recent events and the increasing probability of greater future violence, it is imperative that your administration hold Prime Minister Modi’s government accountable for ensuring its citizens’ most basic human and civil rights, including that of peaceful protest.”

It added: “We urged the White House to issue a statement in advance of the January 26 protest that reminded the Indian government that the world is watching and that the right to peacefully assemble and protest is an essential part of every democracy and it must not be met by government-sanctioned violence or intimidation in any form. We strongly urge you to now condemn the recent acts of violence against the protestors–including the malevolent act of shutting off the internet, which is an often-used government-sponsored attempt to silence dissent.

We also urge the State Department to closely monitor the alarming frequency and severity of Indian government sanctioned-retaliation in response to democratically protected dissent. This should include the unwarranted investigations, charges, and arrests made against the farmers, protestors, and those who support the movement.

And finally, building off President Obama’s February 2015 remarks regarding India’s abysmal record protecting religious rights, we strongly encourage the Biden Administration to take actionable efforts to hold Prime Minister Modi’s government accountable for their past and ongoing human rights abuses, including the severe policies and measures that continue to fail to protect the equal rights of minorities in India.”

The four-pages letter says that since November 2020 up to a million of India’s farmers have been protesting against three farming laws that will “worsen the already harsh economic and ecological conditions in which they live.”

While the protests have remained peaceful, the response from the Indian government and security forces from the beginning has not. Attempts to squash the peaceful protests have included blockades, the destruction of roads, the use of water cannons and tear gas, and other forms of violence. The government’s violent response has escalated whenever additional citizens show support in their home states and attempt to join the protestors on the outskirts of Delhi,” the letter said.

And the farmers’ thinking is simple, tye letter says: “I might die protesting for my family’s rights today, but I will be disenfranchised and bonded to labor under large monopolies that benefit only corporations if these new laws apply to my livelihood tomorrow.”

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