SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – The Bay Area is home to one of the largest communities of Indian Sikhs in the world and Tuesday saw protest and civil unrest both here and in their homeland.
“Khalistan! Khalistan!” yelled protesters outside the Indian Consulate in San Francisco on Tuesday, giving noisy start to Republic Day, when the nation of India celebrates the birth of its democracy.READ MORE: California Drought: Healdsburg Bans Sprinklers; Sets Personal Water Use To 74 Gallons A Day
Half a world away, Sikh farmers from the Punjab region have been gathering for months on the outskirts of New Delhi and Tuesday they made their move into the city, clashing with police who responded with tear gas and water cannons.
The farmers are demanding the repeal of three new laws that would overhaul the country’s price-controlled agricultural markets, introduce private trade and allow corporate farming which small Punjabi farmers fear will destroy their way of life.
“With these farming bills, the farmers are going to lose their lands and everything,” said Amanvir Singh at the San Francisco protest. “They will have to work on their own farm as a worker.”
Many Punjabi Sikhs farmers have reached a breaking point, with thousands reportedly committing suicide. Protestors were also demanding independence and the re-establishment of a sovereign nation of Khalistan.READ MORE: 3-Alarm Fire Burns 2 Buildings at West Oakland Recycling Center
“It’s about agriculture and a free nation, too,” said Mohender Singh. “If we are a free nation, only then can we have a free agriculture.”
But not everyone sees the new laws as a bad thing.
“It’s a modernization that needed to happen years ago, basically,” said Viraj Telang.
As an Indian-American living in the East Bay, Telang believes most Indians welcome the new laws and compares the actions of the Sikhs to the insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol.
“These protestors have now agitated and broken down barriers, pushed past those areas,” said Telang. “They’ve stormed into public buildings and they’ve taken down flags, Indian flags.”
“This will continue, these protests are going to continue as long as Indian oppression continues,” said Dr. Prabhjot Singh outside the Consulate.MORE NEWS: Update: One Killed, Two Injured When Truck Crashes Into Diners at San Jose Sports Bar
In addition to the Bay Area, there were also demonstrations Tuesday in New York, Washington D.C. and in Canada and throughout Europe. The protests are growing and their ultimate success or failure will determine whether history will remember this as political terrorism, or a fight for freedom.