Amidst all the coverage of Ted Cruz’s Cancun trip and Neera Tanden’s tweets, you might have missed the news that massive farmer protests are roiling India, with marches on the capital, violent police responses and international demands for justice from celebrities like Rihanna and activists like Greta Thunberg. At issue are three recently-passed agricultural laws that would effectively deregulate the farming industry in India and in the process potentially undermine the livelihood of the small farmers who comprise 60 percent of India’s agricultural industry.
In this clip from The Damage Report, John speaks with Washington Post reporter Sabrina Malhi, who says that these protests are just the latest iteration in a struggle that’s been going on since India’s farming industry began to decline in the 1960s. Government officials like PM Narendra Modi have sought to depict the protests as anti-Indian and anti-Hindu, she says, and an effort driven by outsiders when the reality is that for India’s small-time farmers, this is very much a human rights issue internal to the Indian state. And the government response, which has included reports of widespread arrests of activists and abusive treatment, suggests that Modi understands the threat these farmers represent to his popular support.
And while there’s no final reckoning yet, the protests have achieved some level of success in that the implementation of these agricultural laws have been delayed by 18 months. Sabrina says that we should expect the protests to continue unabated, however, since many of these farmers understand that this struggle is all that stands between them and sheer destitution.