As of May 2021, Indian farmers have been protesting the draconian anti-farm laws at the border of the national capital for over 9 months. Farmers’ distress and subjugation is as old as farming itself. Surplus food produced by farmers has generated complex societies, civilisations, empires and today, nation states. It has also created exploitative mechanisms of kings, priests (religions), traders and bureaucrats, all living in prosperity on farming surplus whereas the life of the ordinary farmer only seems to be deteriorating with time.
In the early nineties, India witnessed an onset of deceleration in agricultural output that became significantly sharp by the end of the decade. Since 2004, rural India is no longer an agrarian economy, since non-farm incomes are higher, farmers have been quitting agriculture at a record rate. India is on track to become one of the biggest food consuming nations in the world with very few farmers. As the country transitions from a predominantly rural to an urban economy, India’s farming population is migrating to cities that are unable to generate employment at the required rate.
After years of trade and financial liberalisation contributed to the collapse in farmers’ livelihoods, in 2018, thousands of farmers from the states of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana marched in the Kisan Mukti Morcha (Farmers’ Freedom March) to Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi with demands for a 21 day session in the Parliament dedicated to India’s agrarian crisis. Two entitlements: freedom from indebtedness and guaranteed renumerative prices were at the center. However, in September 2020, three anti-farmer bills were passed in Parliament that bind farmers to agricultural corporates. As of today, hundreds of thousands of farmers from the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are demonstrating at the border of the capital against these farming reforms. The farmers’ protests are the largest organised protest in human history and represent a struggle for survival against state sanctioned oppression unlike any other we have witnessed before.
As India deals with an unparalleled humanitarian crisis amidst the second wave of Covid-19, our homes, newspapers and screens are flooded with images of death, despair and grief. Every Indian is navigating not just a national crisis but personal ones as well. The farmers have been protesting relentlessly as the threat to their lives from the laws is in equal measure to the threat to their lives by disease. As city wide lockdowns become a thing of the present yet again, various solidarity groups have taken to social media to organise information and continue the struggle against the farming reforms. This short textile animation uses a traditional Punjabi form of embroidery called Phulkari that hopes to emphasise the beauty of Punjab and its people.