The government’s hopes of turning India into the world’s workshop for global corporations are being strongly resisted
The scene is almost festive. Kanwar Grewal, a popular Punjabi singer, is on the stage performing in front of a spellbound audience. The show is routine for someone like him, but the setting is unusual. The makeshift stage is a table, a set of borrowed speakers and a microphone, all hurriedly assembled on a roadside kerb. He performs without special stage effects or background music; the song is a resounding call to protect the rights of farmers and protest against the new farm laws – a genre different from his familiar oeuvre of Sufi songs.
This scene is neither exceptional nor limited to one artist. It has become commonplace in the past months, especially in the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, as massive protests mount against the deregulation of the agricultural sector. The vast assembly of protesters during a relentless pandemic might seem reckless. But it is more a sign of desperation that thousands of famers and workers have camped for weeks at the borders of Delhi during a harsh winter and the risk of contagion. They show no sign of turning back.