For Immediate Release, February 11, 2021
SABA TORONTO STATEMENT ON FARMER PROTESTS IN INDIA AND ABROAD
TORONTO, ONTARIO – The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is deeply concerned with reports of violence and human rights violations against protesting farmers and journalists in India. Over the past several months, hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have protested the implementation of new agricultural legislation that would impact a decades-old system of crop price guarantees, government loans, and other support for farmers, including payments when crops are destroyed in natural disasters. Farmers peacefully marched towards New Delhi at the end of last year and have been protesting in and around the city since that time.
Unfortunately, many independent reports indicate that the police have responded to the protestors with police brutality and violent crowd dispersion tactics, including batons, water cannons, and tear gas. There are also reports of the arrest and alleged assault of protestors and protest leaders while in detention. In addition, reports indicate online social media attacks on those supporting the protestors, including the use of racist and sexist language and threats of sexual violence, along with concerning reports of internet blackouts at protest sites. Unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy.
We feel we must speak up to defend the right of peaceful protesters to voice their views and concerns and the right of journalists to maintain a free press without the threat of arrests, intimidation or violence. We call on the Indian Government to put a halt to the use of these violent and unjust tactics and for all stakeholders to engage in peaceful activity. As the world’s largest democracy and a country with a deep history of nonviolent protest, India has a special obligation to ensure that these farmers’ right to be heard is honoured and that the rule of law is maintained in the country. It is our sincere hope that the farmers’ protests will lead to a constructive dialogue between the Indian government and India’s farming community so that a peaceful and equitable resolution for all parties can be found.
About SABA Toronto
The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is Canada’s largest equity-seeking bar organization, dedicated to promoting the objectives of South Asian members of the legal profession. SABA represents South Asian legal professionals and ensures that their interests are recognized, respected and voiced with the Law Society of Ontario and various levels of provincial and federal government. SABA aims to unite its over 800 members, deliver programming for professional growth and advancement, promote access to justice and give back to South Asian communities.
Its membership is dynamic, ever-expanding and includes legal professionals from large and small law firms, sole practitioners, government agencies and departments, nonprofit organizations, and corporations. Members of the judiciary, academics and law students also form an integral part of SABA Toronto.
President – SABA Toronto