For more than three months, tens of thousands of farmers in India have been protesting against three new agricultural laws that they say are unfair and detrimental to smaller farmers. The reforms will ease the rules on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural products – rules that have protected Indian farmers from the risks and fluctuations of the free market for decades. The reforms will create a national framework that will allow farmers to sell to private buyers outside the long-term manti system — state-controlled wholesale markets with guaranteed minimum prices. The aim of agricultural accounts is to give farmers more choice, but as the BBC reports, “farmers are mainly worried that this will eventually lead to the end of wholesale and guaranteed prices, leaving them with no choice. That is, if they are not satisfied with the price offered by a private buyer, they can not return to manti or use it as a bargaining chip during the negotiations “.
The largest of these demonstrations, led by farmers from Hariana and Punjab, has been taking place since November, with thousands of farmers camping on highways outside New Delhi. Since then, police are alleged to have hit demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons, excluding access to water and portable toilets and set up metal and wire barricades around the protest area. Journalists and activists have also been arrested, threatening the right to a free press and peaceful protests. One of these activists, Nodeep Kaur, a Dalit Punjabi woman who is already suffering from caste discrimination, was allegedly sexually assaulted and tortured while in prison.
For those of us in the Punjabi diaspora in North America, like me, we watch the news with great sadness and anger as we watch these farmers, many of them elderly, spend the cold winter sleeping outside and protesting peacefully while enduring human crimes. . Agriculture is the focus of our identity as Punjabi people and being farmers is respected in our culture. Although we no longer live in Punjab, our connection to our homeland has been incorporated into us through the knowledge and teachings of our parents and grandparents and has been strengthened through our community, our food, our stories and our traditions, including the continuation of the work of agriculture in the non-dispersion. It was difficult to watch these historic, critical protests unfold from afar with very little “main” recognition from our adopted home.
How does this relate to the wellness industry? Our worlds are more connected than you think. In 2019 (latest year data available), the United States imported $ 271 million worth of spices from India. This means that many herbs and spices such as turmeric and ginger, commonly sold in the form of lattes, elixirs and medicines, were cultivated by Indian farmers. Demand for spice exports rose during the pandemic, which the Indian government boasted of owing its famous immune system to these ingredients. They are not just spices. Rice, cotton and essential oils are also top US imports of Indian products. Forty-one percent of India’s workforce is employed in agriculture, and even before the protests, the country’s farmers faced more insidious battles such as a suicide crisis and the largely invisible work of women farmers and workers. Ultimately, what Indian farmers go through directly affects the wellness industry – and therefore, their struggles should matter to those who have benefited from their work.
“We are at a point where we can absolutely not continue to spiritually bypass and ignore the impact of consuming sacred practices, wisdom, herbs or food from indigenous communities.” —Navdeep Kaur Gill, Ayurveda professional
“The people who provide us with these things also deserve to be well,” says Navdeep Kaur Gill, a Ayurvedic practitioner from Canada. Her Instagram post from December drew attention to the fact that, without Indian farmers, people would not have so easy access to turmeric for their latte.
In addition, Indian culture and traditions have long benefited (and enriched) the global wellness community. People all over the world have sought out well-being practices that have their roots in the Indian tradition, such as Ayurvedic medicine, meditation and yoga, for their reputation of supporting their pursuit of a holistic, balanced and spiritual life. In the pursuit of our own well-being, there needs to be a concerted effort and social responsibility to use our privilege to ensure the well-being of others.
For practitioners from South Asia, such as Harjit Kaur *, a yoga student and yoga teacher in California for 20 years, their work always intersects with activism. They had to regain their place in the western wellness industry from which they have been largely eliminated. The farmer’s protests, they say, are an opportunity for the wellness industry and the people who use these practices to show solidarity, as Justice for Migrant Women and 75 other organizations did in an open letter to New York Times.
“I believe that Western yogis should challenge their teachers as far as they can and ask them where they stand on this issue, about castration, fascism and authoritarianism,” says Kaur. “Why do these elderly farmers see this struggle as their last stand against tyranny?” Conversations like these with your yoga teachers are an opportunity to put your practice into practice — and depending on the discussion, they may tell you if it’s time to find a new teacher.
Wellness does not appear in a vacuum. all our practices must involve activism. “We are at a point where we can absolutely not continue to spiritually bypass and ignore the impact of consuming sacred practices, wisdom, herbs or food from indigenous communities,” says Gill, including those of India. “Fair well-being must intersect with our collective activism.”
To get started, find out where your spices and other goods come from and if they come from morals. Look for teachers (ideally those who have the same cultural background as the practice itself) who are committed to equality and teaching in a colonial way. Encourage companies and wellness publications to set aside strength and comfort so that black, indigenous and colored professionals (BIPOCs) have opportunities to be leaders and experts in their home teaching practices. In these actions, we can better align our individual well-being with the well-being of others to improve all of us.
To learn more about how to support Indian farmers visit: https://farmerprotests.carrd.co
* The name has been changed for privacy reasons
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