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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

In London, rain, a £10,000 fine & Covid rules fail to dampen spirits of protesters

That there is a huge emotional support for the cause of Punjabi farmers is evident from an impressive turnout at the ‘Kisaan Rally’ held late Sunday afternoon in Southall.

Written by Kamalpreet Kaur | London | October 6, 2020 2:10:45 pm
The streets of Southall filled up with hundreds of people and a large number of farm and luxury vehicles. (Twitter/@SikhPA)

Whatever happens in Punjab directly and indirectly affects the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora communities around the world. Naturally, the ongoing farmers’ protest too has found an echo in the sentiments of Punjabis living in the UK, where numerous rallies and virtual events are being organised to stand with farmers in distress.

That there is a huge emotional support for the cause of Punjabi farmers is evident from an impressive turnout at the ‘Kisaan Rally’ held late Sunday afternoon in Southall. Despite incessant rain, Covid restrictions and a police fine of £10,000, the streets of Southall filled up with hundreds of people and a large number of farm and luxury vehicles. “I attended the rally to express solidarity with our brothers in Punjab who have left the comfort of their homes to protest against the recent farm laws,” says Mohinder Kaur, an elderly woman who had braved the weather to join the protest.

“Punjabi farmers initially grew crops that fed their families. When the government of India asked them to take part in the Green Revolution, Punjab became the bread basket of the country. Punjab is now facing the ill-effects of that revolution and is paying price for it in terms of health of its people and soil. Now, these crippling laws will further cause strain on these farmers. We feel their pain. We have no choice but to raise our voice in their support,” says one of the young organisers of the Southall Kisaan Rally.

Addressing the gathering at the start of the procession from Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Havelock Road, Southall, gurdwara president Gurmail Singh Malhi had urged the Indian government to scrap the new farm laws which, he claimed, had no support from the farmers of Punjab and rest of the country.

“We will collectively bear the £10,000 fine slapped on the rally protesters because it was important to stand with the affected farmers in Punjab. We all come from a farming background. We understand the difficulties they face each day to feed the nation,” says gurdwara vice-president Harjit Singh Sarpanch. He urged the Indian government to take back “kaley kanoon”.

Southall had reverberated with the slogans of “Kisan Ekta Zindabad”, “Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad”, “Bharat Sarkar Murdabad”, “Inquilab Zindabad”, “Bole So Nihal” and even at times “Khalistan Zindabad”. These slogans were also raised on Saturday when a motor rally was taken to the heart of London and culminated at Trafalgar Square. Similar rallies are planned in other parts of the UK, including one in Birmingham, said sources.

Talking to The Indian Express, Indian Workers Association representative Salvinder Singh Dhillon said, “It is essential to raise voice against injustices, against capitalists and people profiteering due to exploitation of fellow human beings. The new farm laws take power from the hands of the growers and farmers and gives it to hands of influential business people. We stand not only with farmers but also with all those farm workers, small entrepreneurs who will eventually be directly affected by these laws coming into force.”

Sikh Council UK spokesperson Raj Manvinder Singh told The Indian Express, “The three farm-related Bills passed by the Indian government recently are against the welfare of Punjab farmers. The entire Sikh leadership in the UK urges all political parties of Punjab to come together for the larger interest of the people of the state and not just for scoring political points with their vote bank. We stand together with all those raising their voice against such injustice.”

“Sikhs are deeply concerned with the actions of the Indian Government exploiting farmers and those dependent on farming in Punjab and Haryana. A few days earlier we wrote to 280 UK MPs asking them to take the matter up with both the Foreign Secretary and the Indian High Commission. We have asked MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi to liaise with Lord Ahmad, the Foreign Minister, and are arranging a virtual Zoom lobby through the APPG for British Sikhs in the coming weeks,” says Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK).

“We need to support the farmers, who are the bread basket of the country. Many have already been driven to suicide because of their financial plight and now fear even worse is to come,” said Dhesi, MP from Slough.

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