The Three Black Laws

2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest

The 2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest is an ongoing protest against the three farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. Farmer unions and their representatives have demanded that the laws be repealed and will not accept anything short of it. Farm leaders have rejected a Supreme Court of India stay order on the farm laws as well as the involvement of a Supreme Court appointed committee. Nine rounds of talks have taken place between the central government and farmers represented by the farm unions between 14 October 2020 and 15 January 2021; all were inconclusive.

The acts have been described as "anti-farmer laws" by many farmer unions, and politicians from the opposition also say it would leave farmers at the "mercy of corporates". The farmers have also requested for the creation of an MSP bill, to ensure that corporates can not control prices. The government, however, maintains that they will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, and stated that the protests are based on misinformation.

Soon after the acts were introduced, unions began holding local protests, mostly in Punjab. After two months of protests, farmer unions—notably from Punjab and Haryana—began a movement named Dilhi Chalo (transl. Let's go to Delhi), in which tens of thousands of farming union members marched towards the nation's capital. The Indian government ordered the police and law enforcement of various states to attack the farmer unions using water cannons, batons, and tear gas to prevent the farmer unions from entering into Haryana first and then Delhi. On 26 November a nationwide general strike that involved approximately 250 million people took place in support of the farmer unions. On 30 November, it was estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 farmers were converging at various border points on the way to Delhi.

A section of farmer unions have been protesting, whereas the Indian Government claims some unions have come out in support of the farm laws. Transport unions representing over 14 million trucker drivers have come out in support of the farmer unions, threatening to halt movement of supplies in certain states. After the government did not accept the farmer unions' demands during talks on 4 December, the farmer unions planned to escalate the action to another India-wide strike on 8 December 2020. The government offered some amendments in laws, but unions are asking to repeal the laws. From 12 December, farmer unions took over highway toll plazas in Haryana and allowed free movement of vehicles.

By mid December, the Supreme Court of India had received a batch of petitions related to removing blockades created by protesters around Delhi. The court also asked the government to put the laws on hold, which they refused. On 4 January 2021 the court registered the first plea filed in favour of the protesting farmers. Farmers have said they will not listen to the courts if told to back off. Their leaders have also said that staying the farm laws is not a solution.

On 30 December, the Indian Government agreed to two of the farmers' demands; excluding farmers from new pollution laws and dropping amendments to the new Electricity Ordinance.

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Important decisions

Relay hunger strike will begin at all protest sites; 11-11 volunteers will go on the strike at a time.

December 23 will be celebrated as Farmers Day; citizens are urged to give up one meal to support the movement.

Haryana will be made toll-free from December 25 to 27.

The supporters of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will be surrounded on December 26, 27 and they will be asked to pressure the government to repeal the three laws.

The citizens are urged to beat the plates while the PM will “speak from his heart” - “mann ki baat” on December 27.

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O Martyrs, to complete your pending work… We shall give our heart and soul

Homage to the martyrs of the protest.

Kahan Singh, Dhaner, Barnala, 65
Dhanna Singh, Khiali Chehla Wali, Mansa, 45
Janak Raj, Dhanaula, Barnala, 60
Gajjan Singh, Bhangu Khattra, Ludhiana, 55
Baljinder Singh, Jhamat, Ludhiana, 32
Gurjant Singh, Bachoana, 60
Gurbachan Singh Sibia, Bhinder Khurd, 80
Mewa Singh, Khote, 48
Makhan Khan, Bhinder Kala, 45

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Where do we stand now?

Harjeshwar Pal Singh, Historian, Patiala

The stakes continue to rise as the farmers’ agitation has entered the next stage after the farmers rejected the government proposals and announced a slew of measures to escalate the agitation including blockade of Delhi, and nationwide protests outside the offices of BJP leaders.

In the game of political chess, the farmers continue to hold the advantages and remain steadfast in their demand to repeal the three laws while the ground becomes shaky under the government’s feet.

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This magazine cover design is an artistic expression designed to convey the power of this moment.

Rolling Stone Magazine has always been an epicenter of popular culture in America and the West. It has captured some of the most iconic images and stories since its founding in 1967. Often, Rolling Stone has indicated a cultural shift, or new way of thinking, even before it is widely known to the rest of the world. Rolling Stone is one of the most recognizable magazines ever published. Imagine if they saw the cultural shift occurring in India today?

Everyday small farmers are taking on a fascist government and are the last stand from a complete corporate takeover of Punjab, and as a result, all of India. Like so many cultural shifts that Rolling Stone has covered, India itself is in the middle of a major cultural pivot point where a quarter of the entire planet lives.

Shall it become a country dominated by the fascist who want to see India ruled completely by far right ideology, or will it be a land with a wide range of practical beliefs and views? Will it be a land of master and subject, with Corporations dictating every aspect of people’s lives (from what we eat, to what we get paid, to where we live, etc) in order to maximize their power, or will it be a land where every individual has the opportunity to freely express themselves and access to a life free of tyranny?

This magazine cover design is an artistic expression designed to convey the power of this moment and movement for generations to come. It is not a published cover, but a form of art.