The Kisaan Sleep Out returned to Surrey Friday (Nov. 26), with protestors marching continuously across the intersection at Scott Road and 72 Avenue.
Kisaan Sleep Out, according to a release from the group, held monthly demonstrations in the Lower Mainland since February to bring attention to the three agricultural bills passed in India in September of 2020.
“Sleeping out is an act of solidarity that we’ve been doing since February, and with that, it just shows the world that these farmers, 250 million people in India have been protesting,” said Jennifer Multani, a co-founder with Kisaan Sleep Out.
She added between 30,000 and 50,000 farmers and labourers have been sleeping on the streets in Delhi “to make their voices heard, so we’ve been trying to facilitate those same kind of emotions and movement here.”
Multani said those protests have brought change.
“You saw community kitchens, education, medical clinics being run at the protest sites … They were able to sustain a community while living there because they knew it was going to be a long fight,” she said.
“That’s a huge piece that you see out of this revolution that these farmers and these labourers are taking care of the same people who are hurting them.”
It was the week before, after more than a year of protests around the world, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Nov. 19 that he would repeal the controversial agriculture laws.
Mandip Kharod, one of the organizers, said farmers in India haven’t moved from their spots, “and so we figured, you know what, we’ll continue our nightly protest at Scott and 72 until those bills are actually repealed in parliament.”
Shortly after Modi’s announcement, there was excitement and celebration, but then some started to question if anything would actually happen.
“I think we just continue to be cautiously optimistic,” said Kharod.
Protests have been happening at that intersection for nearly a year, she noted.
“The collective has gotten smaller and bigger at different times,” said Kharod. “For some, it was a trend, for others we understand that this is a social movement that we’re now calling a revolution.”
Kharod said India has “lots of other issues, so this is really just a scratching of the surface when you look at how these bills came into play.” She pointed to the number of politicians in India that have face criminal charges.
“So these are the people we’re trusting to make the right choice?” she asked. “I don’t think any of us is under any kind of false pretence that this is just going to be a simple win. I think this goes on for a while.”
It was about a year ago that tens of thousands of farmers marched on Delhi to protest the laws, which then started rounds of protests around the world. In that time, Kharod said, hundreds of farmers have lost their lives, so part of the sleep out was a candlelight vigil for the victims.
“This is the start of that revolution,” explained Kharod. “For us, some of us were born here, some of us haven’t been to India before, some of us come from India, whatever the demographic, whatever that looks like, the point is that it has awakened people.”