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Rally in Toronto for farmers in India| OMNI Television

by Nandika Ravi and Loveen Gill

A large convoy of about 500 small business owners from the South Asian community gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Tuesday to support Indian farmers protesting for their rights in New Delhi.

Amanpreet Deol, who is a small business owner in the city, was born to a family of farmers in India. He said that he feels obligated to stand by his people, even though he lives thousands of miles away from them.

“I feel equally attached to the movement, my father was a farmer and my grandfather is too, and their hearts and souls go out to the farmers protesting in India,” Deol told OMNI.

What caused these protests in India?

More than 300,000 farmers continue to block major highways for the sixth day in a row, prohibiting entry into India’s capital New Delhi. They’re protesting against 3 agrarian reform laws passed by the Parliament.

The Indian government has proposed reforms to the agricultural sector in the country, that farmers say would strip their minimum support price and leave them vulnerable to the market effects of big corporations, which would drive prices down.

A protesting farmer shouts slogans atop a barricade on a highway, refusing to move ahead  (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Farmers from Punjab and Haryana marched on foot and in tractors and began their 10-day protest last Friday. Police used tear gas, barricades and water cannons to stop the protesters from moving forward. These farmers have now set up camps on 5 major highways in Delhi, with an intention of continuing their protest for months to come, if their demands aren’t met.

Canadian leaders show their support

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first international leader to make a statement about these protests. He extended his support to farmers in India,  stating that “Canada will always be there to defend the right to peaceful protests.” Trudeau reassured Canadians that they have reached out directly to the Indian authorities, highlighting concerns.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also took to Twitter to express his concerns regarding these protests.

Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal also tweeted earlier this week, saying that he was disturbed by the treatment of Punjabi farmers in India.

However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs in India, Anurag Srivastava lashed back, stating that comments made were  ‘ill-informed’ and ‘un- warranted.’