Abbotsford residents gathered at Clearbrook Road and South Fraser Way on Monday and plan to continue more demonstrations later this week for what they say is the unfair treatment of farmers in the Punjab state of India.
According to one attendee, over 100 people, in and out of their cars, showed their support. Locals converged on the area at around 5 p.m.
Abbotsford resident Jasleen Deoll told The News that she believes that three new bills recently passed by the Indian government will be extremely damaging to the farming community in Punjab, which has a number of connections to people living in Abbotsford.
“In simple form these new bills are supporting large corporations and encourage the privatization of purchasing crops, which demolishes the MSP (minimum support price),” she told The News. “Meaning large corporations can come in and purchase crops for less than the minimum cost. Essentially opening up the market to mass privatizations and allowing large companies to monopolize and take over the entire market.”
Deoll explained that many of these farmers from the north have now traveled to Delhi to voice their concerns but were met with violence, arrests and other intimidation tactics by the Indian government and its forces.
“During this time we are trying to raise awareness so that our voices can be heard and we can gain justice for the farmers in Punjab,” she said.
She added that this issue and the plight of farmers does have a big connection to Abbotsford.
“I understand how people may assume this is an issue that is disconnected from Abbotsford,” she said. “However with the large amounts of Punjabi immigrants who now call Abbotsford home, it has become a big concern. This is an issue their ancestors have been dealing with for numerous years and this legislation will greatly affect the youth today.”
Abbotsford resident Janessa Dhaliwal said the types of tactics being protested against were similar to what eventually led her family to leave India for Canada.
“The Partition of India in 1947 rid my family of our wealth and home we had prior to it,” she said. “Millions of other Sikhs, we were also left with nothing. I am the daughter of Punjabi Sikh immigrants. Before my parents immigrated to Canada, our farm was all we had. My dad began working sunrise to sundown starting at the age of six on the farm for our family to make a living, along with his grandparents, parents, and siblings until he came to Canada at the age of 28.”
Abbotsford resident Kal Sidhu told The News that he has helped pen a letter which will be sent to every Abbotsford member of Parliament recommending a call to action by the Canadian government related to this issue.
The letter states a plea “for the Canadian government to condemn the actions of the Indian government in its response to violating its citizens’ rights to peaceful protest and assembly.”
Abbotsford resident Neetu Dhaliwal has also helped create a letter intended for Canadian officials to condemn the actions of the Indian government in its response to violating its citizens rights to peaceful protest and assembly. She said she is concerned about the escalation of the conflict and what could happen if people remain silent.
“Without global scrutiny of the Indian Government at this time, these concerns continue to rise as the protests carry on,” she said. “This march is one of the longest in history. It would be equivalent to walking from Abbotsford to Prince George, in freezing weather during a pandemic. The people protesting are not fighting for a luxury, they are fighting for the food on their plate.”
Those speaking with The News stated that local demonstrations are planned for the rest of the week.