Wednesday January 19, 2022

Support of Punjab farmers: Thousands of Sikhs siege India House in London

December 07, 2020

LONDON: Thousands of Sikhs from across the United Kingdom laid the siege of Indian High Commission here for nearly three hours in support of farmers peacefully protesting in Delhi against the Farmer Laws.

The Kissan Support Protest call was given by the Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) to show solidarity with farmers from Punjab and across India fighting for their rights and futures. This was one of the biggest ever protests by British Indian Sikhs outside the Indian High Commission – veteran Sikh leaders said this was the second largest protest at the venue after the historic protest held here in the wake of Indian government’s raid on the Golden Temple killing thousands of Sikhs.

A spokesman for the Sikh Federation UK told The News and Geo that the organisers had told the police and the local Westminster Council that only about 300 protesters will assemble but thousands of people – men, women, youth, elderly and children – started gathering outside the High Commission from 11:00am and stayed there till 3:00pm. The protest was so huge that protestors were arriving at the venue even till 3:00pm. They came in cars, coaches, tractors, heavy bikes and cycles – bringing areas around Trafalgar Square, Holborn, Oxford Circus to a complete halt. It’s estimated that around 700 cars were concentrated around the protest venue, many unable to leave their cars till the end of the protest.

The Sikh Federation’s Dabinderjit Singh said, “The turnout has surpassed our imagination. These are thousands of people who have come from all over the UK on their own, they are outraged and they want justice for the protesting Punjabi farmers in India. They have come out to denounce Narendra Modi. You can see that all of them are chanting slogans against Modi’s government.”

More than a hundred policemen were present to police the demonstrators and warned the protesters not to break COVID-19 laws. The demonstration was against farming reform in India and banners saying “justice for farmers” were held aloft outside India House in Holborn. The protesters said that the Modi government was targeting Punjabi farmers because they were mainly Sikhs and the Indian government of Baharitya Janta Party (BJP) didn’t like Punjabis and Sikhs.

Throughout, the protesters let off orange smoke bombs as dozens of heavy bikers revved their engines. There was a minor clash between the police and a group of youth raising Khalistan slogans trying to get closer to the Indian High Commission’s central entry door.

The protesters told this correspondent that right now, millions of farmers are protesting across India about the implementation of three new farming bills which will change agricultural trade laws and thousands from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and further have descended on India’s capital Delhi to protest the discriminatory laws against Punjab farmers and farmers from other areas of India.

The protest organisers said that the main issues are the removal of the Minimum Support Price, a safeguarding regulation which ensures farmers get a fair price for their crops and the removal of rules preventing corporations hoarding crops. With these changes, farmers believe they will be left vulnerable to exploitation, which will lead to bankruptcy and land seizures.

The huge protest was held after a group of 36 cross-party parliamentarians wrote to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking him to make representations with his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, about the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India.

The letter has been drafted by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and signed by other MPs including former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“This is a joint letter calling for representation to be made by yourself to your Indian counterpart about the impact on British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India,” read the letter.

“This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts on other Indian states. Many British Sikhs and Punjabis have taken this matter up with their MPs, as they are directly affected with family members and ancestral land in Punjab,” it read.