Black Earth Statement — Indian Farmer Protest Demo 9. Jan 2021
The following is a statement that I gave on behalf of Black Earth at a demo in Berlin, Germany, in support of the Farmers protesting in India against the new farm laws passed by the Modi government in September 2020 — a resistance that has been called the largest protest in human history, yet it is not getting the coverage it deserves.
“I am here on behalf of Black Earth — an activist collective that fights for environmental and climate justice. We believe that anti-colonial struggles are inextricably linked to the fight for environmental justice and that we are more resilient and more likely to survive if we unite our struggles. We find power and inspiration from a centuries-long line of resistance and we rise because of those who have come before us. This, in part, is why we are here today — to speak in support of the farmers protesting outside Delhi and across India — to honor our ancestors — including the women of the Chipko Movement whom we recognize as pillars of the environmental justice movement.
The Modi government claims that these new farm laws are to support the farmers, but any legislation passed without input from those that are directly or indirectly affected set a dangerous precedent. It is estimated that since 2013, over 12,000 farmers have died by suicide each year, highlighting a growing need for support and change. However, we stand in support of farmers in India to decide what that change should look like — to be the architects of their own livelihoods and to resist post-colonial continuities in the form of dictatorial and neoliberal pushes for privatization and corporate power in the food system.
From a sustainability point of few, diversification of crops and a shift away from subsidies that support overproduction — two points that the government claims the new laws address — is often seen as positive. But an intersectional lens allows us to see the nuances present in the current standoff. India is faced with a fascist government fueled and financed by fossil fuel capitalists. Progressive laws seem like an impossibility in this setup, therefore anti-fascist resistance is the baseline.
The current system, although not perfect, is one that supports widespread employment and is rooted in personal relationships between farmers and the so-called “middlemen” who are known to support farmers in times of financial hardship. These service providers are also often the only source of credit for women farmers, whose presence in the protests — and in the agricultural sector in general — has been grossly overlooked. Issues of gender equity and classism are further highlighted as the new farm bills promote prosperity through ‘competition’ while overlooking problems such as mobility and generational buyer networks that disproportionally affect women farmers. We, therefore, support the protestors’ demand for expanding such systems toward a more inclusive and democratized agricultural sector.
We must listen to those who feed us. Reforms must be rooted in their visions of what is needed and what they know to be true. Without their voices at the table, no new laws should be seen as viable nor sustainable as this is a mere continuation of colonial domination. Capitalist, corporate handling of societal needs has not and will not produce the culture of care needed to create more equitable and sustainable societies. What is needed across the board in order to usher in a new era of resilience is genuine and intentional collaborations.
Solidarity in our fight for justice around the world is imperative — In support of farmers everywhere. Thank you.”
You can watch the full speech on the Berlin for India website here.