Farmer protests in India are worthy of US concern

For months, farmers in India have been protesting against agricultural bills passed by Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in September. The bills will privatize farms, making farmers vulnerable to corporate exploitation, putting the livelihoods of farmers at stake during the coronavirus pandemic. These agricultural policies are merely the tipping point for the farmers’ movement in India. 

The degradation of farmers’ economy, health and environment has long been neglected by the Indian government, who once caused harmful consequences by introducing corporate control into farming regions

As farmers reach their tipping point, India’s right-wing government is attacking vocal religious minority groups, convicting journalists, tear gassing protestors and shutting down the internet. Farmers in India are leading the largest protest in human history and finally have the world’s attention. Despite this, right-wing Hindu nationalists target figures who have spoken out about the crisis, like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg, burning their photos on stakes. The world is watching and nationalists continue engaging in harassment and violence under the protection of the state — sound familiar? 

The interconnectedness of former President Donald Trump’s America and Modi’s India reveals the fragility behind hollow claims of democracy and unity. India, the most populous democracy in the world, and the United States, the oldest democracy in the world, are two nations threatened by right-wing supporters who have been emboldened by their nation’s leaders. 

It is understandable that people have a hard time wrapping their heads around the details of what is happening in India. It would be nearly impossible for even the most overzealous student activist to be engaged in every human rights crisis — even during the age of social media slacktivism. However, it is imperative to recognize these international dynamics of democratic instability as timely. 

Militant nationalism is still on the rise and the only way to fight it back is through accountability. The farmers in India, many of whom are elders and women, are organizing on the ground level to do just that. They are demonstrating en masse on the streets of Delhi while facing horrific state violence.

Early this year, the Punjabi diaspora mobilized in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom through protests and car rallies to stand in solidarity with the farmers in India. The international community at large has shown support for farmers on social media to raise awareness and gain attention from world leaders. After one tweet from Rihanna about the farmers’ protests, western media outlets started to increase coverage and other celebrity figures started to speak out. 

Organizations like the United Nations and Human Rights Watch have condemned India for its dangerous regression in free speech rights in pursuit of its Hindu Nationalist agenda. Yet, after condemnation from Greta Thunberg, numerous U.S. Congress members and other world leaders, the office of the president still has not spoken out. 

While there are much more complex foreign policy repercussions involving trade relations and strategic alliances for the United States to consider, taking a stance against facism is imperative. As the United States grapples with systemic racism and other domestic human rights violations following a Capitol insurrection, the world will be watching to see how it responds to nationalism abroad as well. 

If President Joe Biden’s Administration seeks to undo the wrongdoings of the Trump Administration, they must take a strong stance on human rights abroad too. From the U.S.-Mexico border crisis to travel bans, the Trump Administration has heavily contributed to America’s diminishing credibility on international human rights. Now, more than ever, the Biden Administration must address facism abroad if it wants to remain a credible actor in protecting democracy. The world is watching.