Bay Area, CA: Today, an estimated 10,000 Sikh Americans traveling from as far as Yuba City to Los Angeles converged on the Bay Area for an in-vehicle, socially distanced caravan protest to bring national attention to the ongoing human rights crisis playing out in Delhi, India. While Indian farmers place their lives on the line to protect their livelihoods, Sikh Americans echoed “No Farmers, No Food” in a caravan protest that included motorcycles, semi-trucks and even tractors. The caravan took the estimated 2,000 vehicles to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco before finishing with a raucous rally at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland.
For more than a week, millions of India’s farmers have been protesting against three recent farming laws that will, in part, remove the Minimum Support Price (MSP) currently guaranteed to them by the government. These farmers, many of whom are from the state of Punjab (the area from which the Sikh faith originated in the 15th century), already face dire ecological and economic circumstances; the new laws further threaten their already impoverished livelihoods.
The protesting farmers have been stopped from entering India’s capital city. In addition, they have been met with tear gas, water cannons, and other forms of repression and violence from the police and government. The caravan protest taking place today in the Bay Area–along with similar recent protests in New York, Houston, Michigan, Chicago, and Washington, DC–was meant as a show of solidarity as Sikhs around the world urge international condemnation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s undemocratic response.
“Without farmers, there is no food. Without farming, there is no livelihood for the millions of people in Punjab who have relied on farming as a source of income for generations. These issues are deeply intertwined, and we will raise our voices to ensure that the families from Punjab who are putting their lives on the line to protest in Delhi can do so without facing threats from the Indian government,” said Naindeep Singh, Executive Director of the Jakara Movement, who helped organize the caravan and rally.
Sikh Americans have been an active part of California’s economy and culture for more than 125 years, and many of the 500,000 Sikhs who reside in the United States can trace their immediate families back to one state in India: Punjab. Now, the future of Punjab as an agricultural powerhouse and the livelihood of its people remains under dire threat as long as the Indian government remains focused on the passing of these three farming laws.
The caravan protest was organized by the Jakara Movement, a California-based grassroots organization that seeks to strengthen community engagement and build empowerment by focusing on issues of civic engagement, education, health, and social justice. For more information, including interviews with Bay Area Sikh community leaders, additional context on the Delhi protests, and photos or other media requests related to today’s caravan protest, please contact Rajanpreet Kaur or Graham West.