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100 days and 248 deaths later, protesting Indian farmers remain determined

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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The 'Delhi Chalo' (Go to Delhi) farmers' protest at border points of New Delhi has been on for 100 day now. Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, are staging a sit-in protest along Delhi's borders.

The Time Magazine has described it as the world's largest ongoing demonstration and perhaps the biggest in human history which has prompted thousands to make their voices heard.

Indians of all ages, genders, castes and religions have been united by a common goal: to roll back new agricultural laws passed in September by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, the Time added.

Ever since Modi's right wing government pushed through three farm laws using the governing Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) majority in Parliament, farmer unions have erupted in anger.

Since November 26, 2020, tens of thousands of farmers have camped at three different locations around the capital New Delhi, demanding the government withdraw the laws they say put them at the mercy of private companies and destroy their livelihoods.

As the protest enters its 100th day on Friday, at least 248 farmers have died at the borders outside New Delhi, according to the data collected by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), or United Farmers' Front.

Some died of health issues, others by suicide, said the SKM, which on Saturday plans to stop all traffic on the six-lane Western Peripheral Expressway that forms a ring outside New Delhi for up to five hours to continue their protest.

Despite mounting deaths, the farmers say their commitment towards the protest remains unshaken, according to Al Jazeera.

Time highlights women's role

Women members leading the ongoing farmers' protests against the three new contentious farm laws have made it to the TIME magazine's new international cover.

The magazine's cover story talks about women farmers who are not only participating, but also leading the agitation. While some speak onstage, others are simply determined to be present. "I am an illiterate woman," Gurmer Kaur told Time. She was accompanied by her friends Surjit Kaurand Jaswant Kaur, all in their mid-70s. "I cannot talk well, but I can sit tightand I will sit here till the next elections if these laws are not called off."

Women, who form the backbone of Indian agriculture, may be particularly vulnerable to corporate exploitation, Time said. According to Oxfam India, 85% of rural women work in agriculture, but only around 13% own any land. "Women are not seen as farmers. Their labor is immense but invisible," says Jasbir Kaur Nat, a member of the Punjab Kisan Union, who is mobilizing farmers in Tikri, the protest site at the border of Haryana and Delhi.

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has urged action on the gender gap in agriculture, saying women's voices must be "heard as equal partners" to ensure both agricultural development and food security. And at the protests in India, women are speaking up. Before now, some women had never stepped out of their homes without a veil, let alone spoken onstage in front of thousands of men. Many arrive at the sites in tractors, a powerfuland previously malesymbol of farming in India. "Women are changing women here," Nat says, praising the spirit of protest among these women. "They are claiming their identities as farmers."

100 days or 500 days, there is no returning

Tasleem Khan of the National Herald India wrote Friday:

Singhu Border has been the epicentre of farmers protest for the past 100 days, yet the atmosphere remains the same as it was on the first day of the protest on 26 November if not livelier. The farmers tents are still there, as are the tractors, trolleys, langar, slogans, makeshift hospitals. But above all, there is still the same courage and determination amongst the protesters to force the central government to take back the three farm laws, and only then would they return to their villages.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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