Hundreds join Detroit car rally to show solidarity with farmers in India

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Hundreds of drivers made their way around downtown Detroit as snow fell heavily Sunday to show solidarity with farmers in India who are protesting laws they argue could devastate crop prices and reduce their earnings.

Thousands of Indian farmers have been demanding the government repeal the laws for more than two months.

"The Indian government is stubborn," said caravan organizer, Amandeep Jhajj, of Canton. "With this we want to tell the Indian government, the power is the democracy and in the people so they have to listen to the Indian people and the Indian farmers." 

Hundreds of drivers made their way around downtown Detroit to show solidarity with farmers in India who are protesting new agriculture laws in similarly frigid weather.

Supporters from throughout the Midwest including Indiana, Ohio and Illinois came to Detroit to join the rally.

The caravan started at Comerica Park, overfilling two parking lots, and shut down traffic as police escorted the cars down Woodward and Jefferson then finally ending on Belle Isle. 

Donations were collected to send to farmers and protesters in India who have occupied major highways that connect the capital, New Delhi, with the country's north for weeks. 

Indian Americans have also held protests and rallies in Canton and Troy in recent months to express unity with the Indian farmers.

The Washington Post reported several dozen farmers in India have died of heart attacks and illnesses as the protests stretch on. Four farmers have reportedly died by suicide, The Post reported. 

Metro Detroit's Indian community holds a car rally in support of farmers in India in Detroit on January 24, 2021.

"The farmers' leaders, they have more than 11 meetings with the Indian government but no results. So all of this going back and forth puts the lives of our extended families in India at risk. Their lives, their future, their livelihood depends on farming," said Jhajj. 

Farmers fear the Indian government will stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices under three laws that were passed in September and that corporations will then push prices down. The government said it is willing to pledge that guaranteed prices will continue.

The farmers say the laws will lead to the cartelization and commercialization of agriculture and make farmers vulnerable to corporations.

Police escorted hundreds of cars down Woodward and Jefferson in Detroit and then finally ending on Belle Isle.

The farmers have threatened to hold a rally on Tuesday when India celebrates Republic Day if their demands are not met.

"I'm a daughter of farmers. I come from a long line of farmers from India even though I was born here in the United States," said Michigan resident, Shelly Sahi. "One of the things I don't like about what is happening in India is the undemocratic way of bringing upon these laws that are essentially hurting the people that feed its nation." 

The situation escalated in November when tens of thousands of protesters marched to New Delhi, where they clashed with police. 

The new regulations compound tensions there, with farmers long complaining of being ignored by the government in their demands for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells. 

With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and allies.

"As long as the protest continues, they will have the power to fight the government. The second these protests, these peaceful protests, are stopped the government will no longer care to make the proper changes necessary to help the farmers in India," Sahi said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.