Oxford students have gathered to show solidarity with Indian farmers protesting new agricultural laws passed by the government earlier in the year. 

The demonstration took place at University Parks on Saturday and was organised jointly by the University of Oxford India Society and the Oxford South Asian Society.  

Mihir Rajamane, the general secretary of the India Society, said that the protest was organised to show “unequivocal solidarity with the farmers who have been protesting for the last few months. 

“Our solidarity is all the more necessary considering the undemocratic nature in which the law was passed in Parliament, with no complete consultation stage and a denial of a vote by division amidst chaos. The protestors have also been met with water cannons and were not allowed the freedom of movement to the capital where they planned to protest – rights inherent to all citizens in democratic India”. 

He also highlighted that for some the recent events were “part of a broader trend of anti-democratic acts by the Indian government- ranging from the detention of activists, intellectuals and students under draconian laws, the reconfiguration of Indian citizenship and interference with private relationships on religious grounds, the destruction of labour protections and more.” 

In addition, a statement for Oxford students and staff to sign in support of the farmers’ protests in India has been launched.  

The reforms, which were voted through the Indian Parliament in September, would allow private companies to have greater power in determining the pricing of agricultural commodities. There are fears among farmers that this could lead to businesses offering lower prices for goods, harming producers. 

There have also been questions about the procedure used to pass the bills, with a refusal to send the reforms to a parliamentary committee where they could have been scrutinised more closely. Eight opposition politicians were also suspended after staging a sit-in protest outside of the parliament to demonstrate their resistance to the new laws. 

Opposition to the legislation led to a nationwide strike by farmers across India which has grown particularly strong in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. In Delhi, farmers who marched from the countryside to protest the changes were met by police forces. Subsequent images showing tear gas and water cannons being deployed against demonstrators has led to global concern about India’s handling of the protests. 

The Oxford South Asian Society said that it was important for members of the university to try and raise awareness of the issue. 

“The University of Oxford is uniquely placed to influence policies across the world, or in the least, to get a serious conversation started. 

“Being members of an educational institution that respects democratic ideals and human rights, it is important that we make our opposition to these laws known.”

Image Credit: Oxford South Asian Society.

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