The folk from the Association for India’s Development recently held a vigil outside the US Embassy in Washington DC, in support of farmers in India. Here’s a press release from their event.
Candlelight vigil in Washington DC on Farmers Suicides in India.
Washington DC, Dec 10:
Volunteers from the Maryland Chapter of the Association for India’s Development and other NRIs [non-resident Indians] gathered, along with farmers’ rights activist Arupathy Kalyanam, in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. to bring attention to the plight of Indian farmers on World Human Rights day.
Tragically, suicide has been on the rise among Indian farmers over the last decade, for example, among cotton farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, the number of suicides hit an all-time high of over 710 since June last year. Vidarbha follows a pattern seen in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and Punjab, however many people remain unaware of the magnitude of the crisis due to lack of proper coverage in the media.
The volunteers organized a candlelight vigil in order to express solidarity with the affected families and other grassroots groups working on the same issue, as well as to remind the Indian government, at the state and central levels, that farmers are still being driven to desolation and committing suicide at an alarming rate. Mr. Kalyanam expressed his appreciation for the chapters’ efforts to bring awareness to the crisis and offered inspiring words during the vigil. The message of the activists resonated throughout embassy row, as the AID volunteers were joined by several passers by who had recently left an event organized to protest the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Observers found parallels between the two situations: whether the government is an active participant in violent confrontations or an apathetic observer of an epidemic of suicides, the responsibility is the same – the government must take action to prevent these deaths and assume responsibility for the social conditions that the government has created by its own policies.
Simple slogans, shouted by volunteers, such as “Save farmers, save India,” held profound truths, as noted by volunteer, Dr.Bhagat , who explained, “We cannot eat IT networks or stock investments; without farmers, we cannot survive.” Several volunteers, wearing black to symbolize their mourning the thousands of farmers’ lives already lost, conveyed their concerns to an Embassy official who promised to pass on the message to the Ambassador.
Many people in the neighborhood stopped to ask questions to volunteers and were also given information sheets to educate them on the devastating situation for farmers in India.
On this day, the wealthy enclave where many of the embassies are located became an arena to broadcast a message from a group of people whose voices are too often ignored during their lives and purposely forgotten after their deaths. In light of the suicide epidemic, it is no longer possible to ignore or forget that Indian farmers are still fighting to achieve their basic human rights to escape poverty and indentured servitude.
AID Maryland volunteers believe that this injustice must be remedied through the enactment of governmental policies that support these farmers and active financial and social support to their communities.
240-421-5510 (Arun Gopalan), 301-422-4441 (Priya Ranjan)