Farmers in India and their supporters around the world, including in B.C., are celebrating after the Indian prime minister promised to repeal three farming laws that sparked widespread protests.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the surprise announcement on Friday, after a year of defending the laws by saying they would modernize India's agricultural sector and boost production through private investment.
Farmers contended the laws would end guaranteed pricing for their crops and force them to sell to private corporations, gutting their livelihood in the process.
After Modi's climbdown on Friday, supporters and family members of protesting farmers around the world rejoiced, but promised more action would be on the horizon.
"It really feels like there was a noose around the neck of the farmers and we were able to remove that," said Dr. Swaiman Singh, a cardiologist from the U.S. who spent nearly a year in India protesting alongside the farmers.
Singh helped provide medical aid to the farmers as protests turned deadly and COVID-19 lockdowns went into place. He said structural problems, like debt and poor health care, continue to affect farmers, but the announcement came as a relief.
"I woke up [Friday] morning, I cried. When I heard the news I literally couldn't stop crying," he said. "It was a nightmare that just – all of a sudden – basically went away and all of a sudden all these people could go home."
Organizations pledge to support further action
The protests drew international support from the likes of Rihanna and Greta Thunberg. In B.C., volunteer organizations like Khalsa Aid Canada helped support farmers by raising awareness and sending money.
"Many of these farmers who have been out protesting for over a year now can see light at the end of this tunnel," said Jatinder Singh, who is based in Victoria and is the national director for Khalsa Aid Canada.
"The government, hopefully, has come to their senses and realized that when the masses are opposed to laws, that they really must listen to them."
The laws are set to be repealed early next month, with Jatinder Singh saying he and his organization would stand with the farmers until they return to their land.
Modi's announcement came before crucial elections in the states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in early 2022.
Swaiman Singh said one of the next steps for him would be to educate farmers on their voting rights and ensure farmers do not give up their votes due to the promise of money or gifts.
"I think you have to make them realize that it's your vote. That you voted the wrong people into office that led to, you know, a year of protests," he said.
"If you keep repeating the same mistakes, then you'll end up being on the road over and over again."