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Protests By Sikh Farmers In India Prompt Demonstration At San Francisco Consulate

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Massive civil unrest is happening in the Punjab region of India over changes to the agricultural system there.  But it is part of a larger struggle that is reaching across the world to the Bay Area.

Local Sikhs gathered at San Francisco's Land's End Wednesday to begin a car caravan to the Indian Consulate. They were protesting three new laws that would open the government-controlled agriculture market to the private sector, welcoming in corporate farming.

Currently, 87% of Punjabi income is derived from small farms.

"The moment you start taking away farming from a society that's largely farming-based, you will run into an issue and that's why we're seeing such great opposition," said Prabhjot Singh of San Jose.

In India, hundreds of thousands of farmers have shut down access to the Punjabi capital and Wednesday afternoon, local protesters blocked the street in front of the Consulate in San Francisco.

Sikh Farmer Protest
Protesters in solidarity with Sikh farmers rally outside the Indian Consulate in San Francisco on December 2, 2020. (CBS)

"You should take your flag and leave the land of the free! You have no business here," Bhajan Bhinder of Stockton shouted from a loudspeaker.

A consulate official waved off KPIX 5's request for comment, but the farm issue is only the latest in a growing struggle over what the Sikhs say is oppression rooted in religious intolerance.

"Well, the world needs to be afraid it could lead to oppression and suppression," said Bhinder. "It could lead to gross human rights violations.  It could lead to the killing of innocents more than it could lead to a war."

In America, the Boston Tea Party was an expression of defiance that led to a war for independence.  Whether that's what is happening in India, only time will tell.

But those from the area say taking farming away from the people may be a last straw.

"And that's not something we can let go of," said Singh, "so, at this point, it's either fight or lay down on your back and let the government run all over you."

Talks between the farmers and government ministers have, so far failed.  And the farmers have set up massive camps at the edges of the capital city, vowing to stay until the so-called "black laws" are repealed.

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