Some Indian community members in Houston back the farmer protests: 'If you ate today, thank a farmer'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Members of the Sikh community in Houston are speaking out as tens of thousands of farmers have been hunkering down in India to protest new agricultural laws they say will leave them poorer and at the mercy of corporations.

The protests have been happening for months and it is being dubbed the "world's largest peaceful protest" as more than 250 million people in India have rallied in support of farmers.

More than 60% of the country currently depends on agriculture for their livelihood.

This week, farmers took the streets of New Delhi, many on tractors, protesting in support of farmers. There are reports that protesters clashed with police, followed by reports of suspended internet access in more than two dozen districts around New Delhi.

Gurmeet Kindra, a Sikh member and community leader in Houston, told ABC13 on Thursday that the three farm bills the government has passed are geared to help corporations and not the local farmers.

"The slogan of the protest is, 'No farmers. No food,'" said Kindra. "It not only impacts just the farmers of India, but it will impact every consumer, every Indian in India, because these corporations are going to manipulate these prices at which they will sell these products in the city."

This week, pop star Rihanna made international headlines after she tweeted about the protests in support of farmers.

ABC reports, the single tweet was enough to 'anger the Indian government and supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party.'

Kindra's son, Rajveer 'Raj' Kindra, said this has also impacted the youth in the community.

If the bills are pushed forward, he said it will not only have an international economic impact, but it could also have devastating and lasting impacts on future generations.

"You recognize that these businessmen own multi-national conglomerates, they're not specific to India," Rajveer said. "If they monopolize Indian agriculture, prices will go up. Everything that you consume it derives from food, a mass majority of it, so what ends up happening is that you will pay higher prices."

Gurmeet said following the mass protests, the farmers group has had negotiations with the government, but there has been heated debate on both sides.

"It's a direct impact on the community here," he said. "They're very concerned, so that is the key impact that the community sees. It sees a vicious cycle that they and their families back home cannot come out of."

Taj Kaur Padda, who participated in a protest in Houston on Jan. 26, sent Eyewitness News the following statement on Thursday:

"I have attended both of the local protest in Houston to show my support to India's farmers. Although I was born and raised in Houston, the Indian farmers' protest is very close to my heart. My family comes from Punjab, and every generation in my family before mine has farmed for a living. My father's first job even in America during the late 70s, was on a farm in California.

It is devastating to see that the people that feed India, the country's farmers, are being called "terrorist" for asking for their rights. It is absurd that the green in that Indian flag has no significance to Prime Minister Modi or the BJP party. The green in the tricolor Indian flag represents the fertility, growth, and success of the country's land. And as Paul Harvey once said, "God looked down on his planned paradise and said, I need a caretaker. So God made a farmer." Today, India's farmers are sleeping on the cold streets while protesting and getting their rights taken away from them.

The new bills passed by PM Modi deregulate the agriculture sector of India. The bills eliminate the MSP (minimum support price), which will leave the farmers of India to sell their crops at low prices and with no bargaining leverage. Also, the fact that 90-95% of these farmers do not have the resources to build their own storage, the new bills will allow private corporations to exploit them further. The new bills end goal is to make farmers the slaves of private corporations. The three new farm bills passed by PM Modi are violations of human rights and India's democracy. Democracy is a government of the people, not a government of private corporations.

The central government is trying to label the Farmers protest into a 'Sikh movement' to not only stop the protest by using religion to cause division, but also get away with attempting another genocide. But the unity of farmers across India today is stronger than PM Modi's lies. Even the city of Houston is quite familiar with the love and loyalty a Sikh has for their nation.

The central Indian government has committed countless human rights violations in the past few months on peaceful protesters. As a human, you should stand for human rights in any country. There isn't a grey area to stand in when it comes to injustice. You either stand up for the oppressed or stand against the oppressed by remaining silent.

If you ate today, thank a farmer."

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