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Jaskaran Sandhu: The Farmers Won, The Struggle Continues
It is fitting that this victory comes on Gurpurab. The revolution started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji was infused into this movement from the beginning.
November 19, 2021 | 4 min. read | Opinion
Today’s victory belongs to the farmer.
It belongs to those that first protested in the streets of Punjab’s villages and cities over a year ago. It belongs to those, young and old, that broke through the tear gas, barricades, and trenches on the historic Delhi Chalo march this time last year. It belongs to those hundreds that literally gave their lives for the cause like Navneet Singh.
As we wait for the full repeal to come in Parliament, Modi’s announcement is an unprecedented admission of defeat. He deserves no praise, no thanks, no gratitude for realizing the folly of his fight. He will not be forgiven.
It is fitting that this resilient victory comes on Gurpurab. The revolution started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji was infused into this movement from the beginning.
I still look back and watch that video of a humble labourer riding his bike from Punjab to Delhi when a journalist stops him to ask why he was going through all that effort to get to the Farmers’ Protest at Singhu Border.
“I was feeling a calling for many days that Guru Nanak is present in the congregation,” he shares, “I left work behind to come to get darshan of that congregation.”
That emotional clip has really stuck with me.
We talked a lot about how the Sikh spirit lifted, saved, and moved the protest forward. How our Sikh history inspired so many to fight bravely. How Sikhs had taken Delhi before and will again, for a just cause. How Sikhs will succeed where many others had failed in challenging Modi’s tyrannical Hindutva government.
But, it is this video of a man riding his bike for hundreds of kilometres that I have always felt encapsulated all of that.
I made the point when Sikhs took the Red Fort during the Republic Day tractor rally, that we had nothing to apologize for. Raising the Nishan Sahib over the Lal Qilla, that event, that act of defiance, was the result of not being heard for years.
Whether it is the BJP or Congress, India will treat Sikhs as others and dehumanize us when we raise our voices and ask for our rights. They only love us when we are dying on the borders. Which makes the way in which farmers stood their ground for the past year all the more glorious and necessary.
People needed a reminder that dissent is critical, and Sikhs will always lead the way.
Sitting here and watching social media explode with images of celebrations erupting in India and the west coasts of the diaspora - for once the time zones worked for the Californias and Surreys of the world - still feels surreal. A cathartic release of a transnational people that so deserved this.
A win that felt obvious in some moments and distant in others.
Many of us outside Punjab and India felt inspired by our family and friends risking everything for this fight. Many of us also felt helpless. As Punjab’s youth played a big role laying siege to Delhi and moving unions that were at first reluctant to take the long road to the capital, youth here also led demonstrations outside Indian consulates across major cities in the West.
I have never seen anything like it personally - the way our young mobilized and organized massive rallies, marches, and social media campaigns which brought real global scrutiny on the mighty BJP regime for what at least felt like the first time.
Has anyone sent Rihanna an update?
The immense brand damage this grassroots-driven worldwide scrutiny brought to Modi and his allies is hard to quantify but is now felt everywhere - from the mainstream media to government offices.
The consistent engagement and organizing from the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora will be something studied and discussed for generations to come and already acts as an inspiration for other communities.
This fight does not end here and the struggle must continue.
There are a number of farmers and supporters still lingering in jails, arbitrarily arrested, and randomly slapped with serious charges facing years of legal obstacles. We cannot stop until all of these political prisoners, again almost all are Sikhs, are released and charges are dropped.
We cannot stop until we are free to speak and live as we wish.
Here is the other reality. Farm reforms are needed. The status quo is not good enough. However, it should be farmers deciding how to bring much-needed change, from the grassroots up, and not big corporate interests.
In the end, it is the persistence of this movement that stands out. Our people have already declared that they are not going anywhere just yet.
While other demonstrations against Modi have come and gone, the farmers refused to give up. They refused to budge on the borders no matter the physical attacks and verbal slander from the state and its allies like the national “Godi” media.
Regardless of the tense moments, the elements, COVID, and state violence unleashed against peaceful protestors, we remained optimistic. This does not end here.
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Strategist at the public affairs and relations agency State Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
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