Demonstrators march from Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge in solidarity with farmers in India on April 10, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
Hundreds of people demonstrated at the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday to show solidarity with farmers in India.
Thousands of farmers have been camped out at the edges of India's capital of New Delhi for more than four months now — more recently drawing attention from the likes of celebrities such as Rihanna and more local figures, like San Francisco's Meena Harris, the niece of Vice President Harris.
For many protesting in solidarity, the issues are personal.
“Those people out on the borders of New Delhi are actually our grandparents, our grandmothers, our uncles, our aunts, our mothers,” said Mandee Banga, who is from San Francisco. “We want to show them we're here for them because those are the same hands that feed us."
Amar Singh, who is from San Jose, said he also has aunts and uncles protesting in India. The people are protesting on local highways there for miles and miles, he said.
“It's equivalent of 101 from the San Francisco airport to San Jose ... full of farmers, that's what's been going on for the past four months,” Singh said.
These recent protests in India initially began over a set of farm bills that critics say would make it harder for farmers to earn a living wage. As author Mallika Kaur told KQED in December, "The spark might be the new laws, but the pain and outrage is decades old and due to devastating policies that have taken too many lives the [Indian] state considers expendable."
Because many have traveled several miles to reach the protest, Singh said many on the front lines in New Delhi have been returning home to do fieldwork, and are then going back to the protests — rotating to continue protesting and farming.
Speaking to the crowd, Harbir K. Bhatia encouraged people to keep the conversation alive. She called on both American leadership and Indian leadership to listen and understand the perspective of those protesting in India. Bhatia reminded the crowd of the importance of the bills passed by India’s Modi government, as well as the more recent history of farmer suicides.
“They're dying because they cannot make ends meet, they cannot pay back their loans,” she said, adding that “more than 65% of India's population are dealing with farming either as workers or farm owners."
Bhatia also brought it back to something tangible. “If anybody here opens up their cabinet, there is a spice that's from India,” she said, connecting the global spice trade to the importance of farmers.
"If the largest democracy does not follow democratic principles ... it will affect this nation [U.S.]," she said.
Bhatia finished her speech by asking the audience what they would be doing to support farmers in India. “Are you telling your local officials, are you calling your city council members? ... What are you doing to help this movement?"