A Call to Action on behalf of Human Rights
In recognition of human rights, civil rights and democracy, the Sikh Foundation makes the following statement supporting the farmers’ right to be heard, their right to dignity and their right to justice.
Since September 2020, the world has been witnessing the largest organized strike in human history, upwards of 250 million people (NY Times, 2020). Farmers from all over India have travelled to New Delhi to peacefully protest three farm laws passed by the Indian government (Tribune, 2020), which they believe will dramatically worsen the already harsh social and economic conditions in which they live.
Farming employs about 600 million (50% of the total population) of Indians! (Financial Express, 2018) For many years, the farmers have struggled with water scarcity, inflation, and mounting debts with little respite. According to the Government of Punjab’s data, 3,300 farmers in Punjab have committed suicide in the years 2000–2019 (ref.). The new farm laws are seen as pro big business by the farmers, further debilitating their own plight (Deccan Herald, 2020).
Since the protests began, we have seen news reports indicating that the government has tried to violently suppress the peaceful protesters. The protesters have been surrounded by barricades and barbed wire, and spikes nailed onto the roads. Their internet, water, and power were cut off. Despite these adverse conditions, the farmers continue their struggle protesting the new farm laws, sleeping in tents and make-shift canopies, braving the rain and biting winter cold. Hundreds of people have died, over a hundred have been jailed and some have disappeared (Amnesty International).
Unfortunately, the mistreatment by the government does not stop at the farmers; members of the press have also been intimidated, imprisoned, and their social media accounts suspended. Furthermore, a campaign of misrepresentation of the peaceful law-abiding Sikh farmers as “terrorists” and “anti-nationals” on social media tweets, posts and memes is increasingly diverting attention from the real issue- the new farm laws.
We are gravely concerned about the human cost of this struggle and fear that more innocent lives will be lost if common ground cannot be found soon.
The world is watching closely. Leaders from Asia, Europe, Americas, Australia, New Zealand including the UN and Human Rights Watch have expressed similar concerns as ours. The implications of these protests reach global issues of land inequality: government deregulation and privatization of the agricultural industry has caused tremendous concern to the small farmer globally.
We urge the Indian government to protect the health and safety of the farmers of India and be an example to the rest of the world. Protect them from being swallowed up by big business. Send the farmers home by repealing the laws and continue discussions with them on a better set of laws. Please come to their aid.
We urge the United States Congress and President Biden to issue a strong statement in support of the democratic, human, and civil rights of the farmers.
The Sikh Foundation strongly advocates for the farmers’ safety and health, right to be heard, right to their dignity and their right to justice.
Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji ki Fateh!
With our sincerest prayers for peace and our faith in humanity,
Dilmohan S Chadha, President
Kiran K Kapany, Trustee
Rajinder S Kapany, Trustee
Sonia Dhami, Trustee
Sukhi Singh, Trustee
Kanwaljeet S. Anand, Trustee
Harbans Bawa, Trustee
Pritinder S Arora, Trustee
Mark Juergensmeyer, Trustee
Ratinder Ahuja, Trustees
Tanmeet Gujral, Program Director