Jaskaran Grewal: The Car Stickers Are Not Coming Off
The Farmers’ Protest was the first foray into organized and sustained advocacy for much diasporic youth
November 29, 2021 | 3.5 min. read | Opinion
“When are you going to take those stickers off?”
It took me a minute to understand the question— obviously referencing the “No Farmers No Food” decal plastered around my car. The protest had been going on for several months, but this was the first time I was forced to consider the finality of it all.
At that moment I was incredibly uncertain about my answer.
“When they repeal the bills!” I fired back. I spent the drive home reflecting on a new uneasiness that had crept up in the pit of my stomach.
The protest was still topical, but the energy felt different.
It was disheartening to compare the trickle of posts - reminding you the protest was still going on, “x” number of days had passed and an even greater number of people had died - to the flood of advocacy that had dominated my timeline only a few months prior.
2020 saw unprecedented momentum pushing people to rally behind important social issues, but 2021 felt exhausting. Despite the phenomenal effort, nothing seemed to lead to change.
As I grappled with these concerns, a sense of guilt immediately washed over me.
I was not allowed to have doubts. My doubts were a disservice to the people who were out protesting on the frontlines. People who had given far more to this cause than I could ever understand.
I imagine I did not share this perspective alone. Like so many issues that plague our community, the diaspora anxiously shelters a burden, that in many cases, it never fully understands. Nevertheless, a nuanced understanding has never been a prerequisite for the pain felt through generational wounds and trauma.
In the last thirty years, entire generations have grown up listening to agonizing stories of pain and suffering with no semblance of closure. Many have chosen to harness these anxieties and used them as a source of strength - defining their sense of resilience and community.
All of these factors contributed and gave meaning to the way the diaspora engaged with the Farmer’s Protest. We carried feelings of obligation to reconcile a sense of disquietude, brought on by reflections of a shared past, with the strength and resilience we convinced ourselves of having. It was this strength that was being tested as the protest waned on and the goal post began to fade.
Here I want to say “thankfully” my doubts were not everlasting - the farmers’ cause found itself reignited with support and momentum over the course of the year - but it is hard to be thankful for the death and turmoil that catalyzed these new flames.
If revolution is fueled by blood, the land India’s farmers died for certainly drank its fair share.
Now being able to reflect on the eventual repeal of the contentious farming laws that started this movement, I am that much more grateful for the initiative of so many others. Despite battling similar doubts, many remained steadfast in their efforts to engage, support, and advocate for India’s farmers. Their continued focus was paramount to supporting moral, breaking news, and protecting lives by forcing accountability on a state that became far too comfortable undermining its people’s liberties.
Most importantly, the Farmers’ Protest was the first foray into organized and sustained advocacy for much diasporic youth. Consequently, this is what makes the farmers’ win that much sweeter - a new generation is going to grow up knowing the diaspora has teeth, their efforts and persistence lead to tangible impact, and without sounding too idealistic, David beats Goliath.
If one of the most marginalized demographics in the country can take on a system that only favors the wealthy and well-connected, one which is marred by rampant corruption and crony capitalism, and they can win, it exemplifies the power of will. Many who participated in the Farmers’ Protest will never look at personal or societal challenges the same way again.
For many others, this may simply be another win in a long history of persevering over injustice and oppression. But even amongst history’s rap sheet, it is hard to deny that this is a win that comes in stark contrast to the blows dealt in recent memory.
As such, it is my opinion that the repeal of India’s farming bills will serve as a critical juncture that shapes the mobilization and advocacy efforts of both local and diasporic communities.
Moreover, alongside lessons on perseverance, hope, and optimism, the protest serves as a teaching tool that embodies “Chardi Kala” and defines a contemporary iteration of the Sikh community’s relationship with adversity.
Notably, the farmers have rejected “normal” and they continue to fight for better outcomes. Repealing the farm bills was a start, but there is a long way to go.
The stickers are not coming off.
Jaskaran Grewal is a second-year law student at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently summering at a major Bay Street law firm in Toronto. He holds a Master of Management (with distinction) from the Schulich School of Business, and a Bachelor of Sciences (Biomed) from York University. Before starting law school, Jaskaran was a business analyst in the IT industry. He developed data and infrastructure solutions with experience spanning the public, private, and non-profit sectors. You can find him on Twitter at @JaskGrewal.
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