‘US asylum seekers from India cite Modi govt farm laws’

RITU JHA

A rising number of United States asylum seekers from India are citing the new farm laws of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government as the reason they want to flee India, an immigration attorney in Southern California told indica News.

The Indian government says the new laws are much needed reform measures that will boost manifold farmers’ incomes through the participation of the corporate sector. The farmers opposed to it say the laws are designed for a corporate takeover of the agriculture sector and to finish off small and marginal farmers.

Immigration attorney Harsh Chhabra, who deals with South Asian asylum seekers, many of whom are from India, told indica News that “due to the political situation in the country [India] many come to the US seeking asylum.”

He said he has clients “impacted by the changes made by the Modi government regarding the farm policy. The present government is not listening to the pain and the majority of my clients are from Punjab and Haryana.”

Asked how many such asylum seeks from farm laws he had come across in the past six months, Chhabra said that more than 10 had contacted him already and last week he had three such cases.

Chhabra said that most people from Punjab feel threatened by the government’s moves and are convinced that they will not be able to get the right price for their crops under the new laws and that they will end up losing their land to bigger farmers.

And the problem ongoing in India is that freedom of the press is not there,” Chhabra said. “If someone is raising any voice, the Modi government says you are anti-national.”

He added: “They [the government] are putting cases against them on charges that you are speaking against the country.”

India’s has slid on markers of democracy over the seven years of Prime Minister Modi’s government. The US-based Freedom House has downgraded India to a “partially free democracy”, Sweden’s V-Dem Institute has declared that India has become an “electoral autocracy”, and The Economist Intelligence Unit has described India as a “flawed democracy.”

It has also slipped two places, from 140 to 142, on the World Press Freedom Index since 2014, when Narendra Modi was elected the Prime Minister. 

Chhabra said in India, “people have freedom of expression, which is not fulfilled by the Modi government. Protection is given by the Constitution but Modi government is violating their rights and they have to come all the way to the United States and seek protection here.”

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