| Detroit News
Canton Township – Hundreds of members of the Sikh and Indian communities in Michigan gathered on Saturday to protest controversial new laws imposed by the Indian government that they claim are depriving farmers of their rights and destroying the industry.
Relatives and supporters of Indian farmers gathered for a stage and rally at Canton Township’s Heritage Park, writing signs such as “I stand with the farmers” and “I don’t bite the hand that feeds you” while sharing personal stories and prayers.
The event was held in New Delhi in solidarity with international demonstrations in Canada, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, amidst a standoff between the Indian government and farmers.
“What we are seeing is a systematic suppression of human rights,” said Jas Sidhu of Plymouth, the forum’s organizer and a descendant of farmers.
“This is the only thing our forefathers did and now their whole future is in jeopardy because slowly and systematically they are making these laws that will eventually kill all the agriculture in India.”
Opposition groups in Michigan on Saturday rallied in Michigan after opposition leaders rejected a government rejection of amendments to some provisions of a controversial new agricultural law that would control crop prices while maintaining a demand for a complete repeal.
Canton Township resident Amarinder Grewal, whose parents and grandparents were farmers in India, said his relatives and friends were still there and the law was “ruining their lives.”
He added that the Indian government has targeted peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons.
Immigrant Gravel, who has lived in the canton for about five years, said the government is suppressing his voice. “I fear the government will use force against them.”
Indian farmers are on a nationwide strike on Tuesday and if the government does not repeal the laws, strict action will be taken by supporters to occupy toll plazas across the country on the day of the strike.
The two sides are scheduled to meet on Wednesday for further talks.
Protests against the split have blocked major highways in the capital’s seam for more than a week, with thousands of farmers arguing that the reform could wreak havoc on crop prices and reduce their incomes.
Anmol Gill joined the cousins to support the fight on Saturday and said she praised his extended family in India for their courage and enthusiasm and bravery and knew that “it is not a fight that they are just losing.”
“It’s going to be a long journey, but it’s going to be one that they’re going to end a lot,” said Gill, a 17-year-old senior at Canton High School. “People are willing to consider what they can spend anywhere.”
Farmers say the law will lead the government to stop buying grain at the minimum guaranteed price and as a result will be exploited by corporations which will reduce prices.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has insisted that the reforms will benefit farmers. He argues the changes allow farmers to sell their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers argue they have never been consulted.
“If it’s a bill for farmers, they should talk to farmers,” Grewal added. “Farmers know better what is good for them.”
Saturday’s discussion between Agriculture Minister Narendrasinh Tomar and 35 farmer leaders was the fifth since the law was passed in September.
Halfway through, farmer leaders grabbed placards asking the government to answer “yes” or “no” to their demand to repeal the new farm law.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been protesting for almost two months.
The situation escalated last week when thousands of people fled to New Delhi, where they clashed with police.
The new rules have a tense attitude there, with farmers complaining of the government ignoring their demand for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to ensure water during prolonged drying.
With about 60% of the Indian population dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, growing peasant revolts have rocked the Modi administration and allies.
Modi and his leaders have tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws as well as allay their concerns. Some leaders of his party have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national” who criticize Modi or his policies.
“Those who dare to question the Indian government’s intentions are called ‘misguided’ and ‘separatists’,” Sidhu said on Saturday.
“I did not mislead. You did not mislead. We did not mislead at all.” “We are doctors, we are engineers, we are businessmen, we are hard workers and most of all we are farmers because this is in our blood.”
The Associated Press contributed