Last week saw thousands of farmers from Punjab, UP, and Harayana march to New Delhi as part of the 'Dilli Chalo' protests demanding the Centre listen to them. Farmer unions are upset with the recent farm bill as they feel the new laws will threaten their livelihood and income, hence, want the government to nullify. To amplify their voices, Indian farmers have relentlessly been protesting on the streets and walking long distances even as police forces use tear gas and water cannons to stop them. Whichever stance people have taken on the farm bill, they still feel farmers should be at least listened to and that there be a dialogue between the Centre and them. To help farmers gain a voice, people have been employing the power of social media.
The #Tractor2Twitter campaign
Among citizens, Bhavjit Singh, a 38-year-old Ludhiana IT professional, began a campaign called #Tractor2Twitter to gather support for Punjab farmers. The hashtag which was among the top trends on Thursday aims to dismantle the narrative that the farmers' protest is a front for promoting Khalistani agenda.
Many Punjabi artists, Congress leaders, Aam Aadmi Party unit in Punjab, and Akali Dal, a centre-right Sikh-centric state political party, have shown their enthusiastic support by using the hashtag. According to the Print, the Twitter page that started running this hashtag gained over 7,000 followers, while the hashtag itself generated over 20,000 potential impressions on Twitter till Friday. The power of social media has aided the campaign to go viral in a matter of days and now people are taking it forward.
Government workers, activists and students march on the streets to show support
In the city of Sangrur in Punjab, people passionate about the farmer protest are stepping out of the comfort of their homes to take part in peaceful marches. They plan to continue marching on the streets until agitating farmers are listened to. Zora Singh, a retired State government employee who partakes in the marches, told The Hindu, "We have started the protest in solidarity with farmers. Government employees, students, social workers, and others gather here at the Bhagat Namdev chowk and march towards the Deputy Commissioner's office."
Singh continues by saying how our agriculture producers form the cornerstone of our economy as they feed the nation. "We will continue to stage a protest march every single day till the time the demands of the farming community are not fulfilled," she adds.
It's not just individuals, but certain companies also have shown camaraderie with the farmers. On Friday, employees from the Northern Zone Insurance Employees' Association led a protest in Chandigarh to condemn how the Delhi police tried to suppress the farmers with brute force. Rajeev Sehgal, divisional president of the association, gave a statement to a news publication insisting that the Centre safeguard Indian agriculture producers.
Lawyers of Punjab and Haryana also stand in solidarity with Indian farmers
Karanjit Singh, chairman of the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, on Sunday stated that the farm bill wasn't just ruinous for India's farmers but also for lawyers of the country. Singh explains that under the new agricultural policies, disputes will be handled by the sub-divisional magistrates (SDM) or the additional district magistrates (ADM) who aren't trained to hear cases with civil consequences.
He also said that the vast matter of cases in a contract and commercial litigation cannot be solely handled by SDMs and ADMs. With the transfer of power from the Civil courts to Executive authorities, he says, there's a possibility of corruption. This can be detrimental to both, lawyers and litigants. The association has supported the idea of 'Bharat Bandh' on 8th December and has asked advocates in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh to take leave from work on Tuesday.
Some political parties are rooting against the agricultural policies
The Shiromani Akali Dal, a centre-right Sikh-centric state political party in Punjab, wholeheartedly supports the bandh call and anti-farm bill sentiment. Party president, Sukhbir Singh Badal, said that he was confident in farmers' persuasiveness and is willing to lend support to their grassroots movement against the laws in the agricultural sector. Aam Aadmi Party's Punjab president, Bhagwant Mann also publicly spoke in favour of the farmers and also, expressing that his support has no political or religious agenda behind it.
Celebrities aren't shying away from standing up for farmers
Bollywood celebrities have been quite vocal about the farmers' movement and criticized the use of force and water cannons on farmers by law enforcement. Famous TV personality and Congress MLA, Navjot Singh Siddhu tweeted, "Triumph of the Punjabi spirit. Kisan Morcha is democratic, pristine, and non-violent. Any Attempts by agencies to foil it - Will fail. Punjabiyat is our shield, Universal Brotherhood our philosophy and driving force!"
Popular cricketer, Harbhajan Singh also tweeted, "The farmer is our food provider. We should give a little time to the food provider. Wouldn't it be reasonable? Can't we listen to them without a police confrontation? Please listen to the farmer. Jai Hind."
Actress, Taapsee Pannu posted a sarcastic tweet asking people to boycott food since we are anyway hitting farmers with water cannons and tear gas. Swara Bhaskar, a politically vocal Bollywood celebrity, tweeted, "Shameful conduct! Shame on @mlkhattar govt. It's 14 degrees in Sonepat just now!!! Cruel inhuman people!".
Diljit Dosanjh, who has been championing the farmer protest online, said in a tweet, "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, Politics Na Karo Rab Da Vasta. Masley Da Hall Karo Ji" (Don't do politics for god sake, resolve the issue). Sonu Sood, Urmila Matondkar, Kapil Sharma, and Simi Grewal are other celebrities that stood alongside farmers.
Singers Honey Singh, Jazzy B, and Ammy Virk have asked their followers to use hashtags to support farmers and spread awareness. Singers aren't simply typing away hashtags, some of them - Ranjit Bawa and Tarsem Jassar have been serving langar to the protesting farmers in Delhi. Others such as Kanwar Grewal and Harf Cheema have been camping with farmers in the protest in Delhi.
Indians living overseas are coming out in support of Indian farmers
Non-resident Indians are also deeply concerned by the farmers' movement back in their homeland and some of them have sent the farmers' aid as well. The NRIs say they are worried and shocked over brutality to the farmers. The Tribune reported that Raja Dhaliwal, World Financial Group Executives in Canada, donated INR 25 lakhs to help farmers and to provide langar to them. Indians living abroad are also coming out on the streets with banners and flags to support the farmers as seen in a video compilation of protests across the world, uploaded by singer - Diljit Dosanjh.
There's been support from international politicians as well
Justin Trudeau has come under great scrutiny by publicly expressing his support for the farmers and standing against the Union government's laws. During a zoom meeting, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest." This was in the context of the suppression of the movement in Delhi. The Indian government was not happy with this development calling the comments ill-informed and unwarranted.
Other Canadian ministers have also since spoken up about the turmoil in India, defence minister Harjit Sajjan tweeted: "The reports of peaceful protesters being brutalized in India are very troubling. Many of my constituents have family there and are worried about the safety of their loved ones. Healthy democracies allow peaceful protest. I urge those involved to uphold this fundamental right."
NDP leader in Canada Jagmeet Singh has tweeted: "The violence perpetrated by the Indian govt against farmers peacefully protesting is appalling. I stand in solidarity with the farmers from Punjab and across India - and, I call on the Indian govt to engage in peaceful dialogue rather than violence."
The movement has gathered support from the US as well, as a lane in New York has been named "Punjab Avenue" to show gratitude to a local Gurudwara that fed over 10,000 people daily during the COVID-19 lockdown.