Hundreds join Detroit car rally to show solidarity with farmers in India
Hundreds of drivers made their way through downtown Detroit as heavy snow fell on Sunday to show solidarity with farmers in India who are protesting laws they claim could destroy crop prices and lower their revenues .
Thousands of Indian farmers have been calling for the government to repeal the laws for more than two months.
“The Indian government is persistent,” said the caravan organizer Amandeep Jhajj from Canton. “We are telling the Indian government that the power is democracy and the people, so they have to listen to the Indian people and the Indian farmers.”
Supporters from across the Midwest, including Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, came to Detroit to attend the rally.
The caravan started at Comerica Park, overcrowded two parking lots, and ceased traffic when police escorted the cars to Woodward and Jefferson and eventually ended up on Belle Isle.
Donations were raised to send to farmers and protesters in India, who have been occupying major highways connecting the capital New Delhi with the north of the country for weeks.
Indian Americans have also held protests and rallies in Canton and Troy in recent months to express unity with Indian farmers.
The Washington Post reported that several dozen farmers in India have died of heart attacks and disease in the course of the protests. Four farmers have reportedly died of suicide, the Post reported.
“The farmer leaders have more than eleven meetings with the Indian government, but no results. All of this back and forth endangers the lives of our extended families in India. Their lives, their future, their livelihood depend on agriculture,” said Jhajj.
Farmers fear that after three laws passed in September, the Indian government will stop buying grain at guaranteed minimum prices and then companies will cut prices. The government said it was ready to promise that guaranteed prices would continue.
Farmers say the laws will cartel and commercialize agriculture and leave farmers vulnerable to business.
Farmers have threatened to hold a rally on Tuesday as India celebrates Republic Day if their demands are not met.
“I’m a farmer’s daughter. I come from a long line of farmers from India, even though I was born here in the US,” said Shelly Sahi from Michigan. “One of the things I don’t like about what is happening in India is the undemocratic way of enforcing these laws that are essentially damaging the people who feed their nation.”
The situation escalated in November when tens of thousands of protesters marched into New Delhi where they clashed with police.
The new regulations are adding to tensions there, and farmers have long complained that the government has ignored them in demands for better crop prices, additional loan waivers, and irrigation systems to ensure water during drought.
With nearly 60% of India’s population dependent on agriculture for a living, the growing peasant uprising has rocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and allies.
“As long as the protest continues, they will have the power to fight the government. Once these protests, these peaceful protests, are stopped, the government will no longer bother making the changes necessary to help the farmers in India said Sahi said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.