On November 26, hundreds of thousands of farmers marched to the Indian capital of New Delhi from surrounding states in opposition to proposed new legislation put forward by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a show of solidarity, upwards of 250 million people across the country participated in a 24-hour general strike. It’s a movement which has now caught the world’s attention, with international leaders speaking out in support of the farmers and their right to protest.
The farmers have set up interim camps along the border of New Delhi, obstructing the central arteries which connect the city with the rest of the country. Due to the nonviolent nature of the protest and the importance farmers have in Indian society, the government has been deterred from its usual tactics of violence to crackdown on dissent. The Delhi government even denied police permission to convert nine stadiums into temporary jails for farmers. “Farmers are not criminals,” the city government said. “The atmosphere is amazing,” says Kirankumar Vissa, who belongs to the All Indian Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Commission (AIKSCC), a coalition founded in 2017 of more than 250 farmer organisations across the country. “It is the police themselves that have barricaded the National Highway to prevent the farmers from coming in. The farmers have set up a stage, their own place to cook, an outdoor kitchen. They’ve created a small village.”