Organizers for Surrey Challo, a protest in support of the farmers in India, had to change their plans at the last minute after they claim RCMP told them they couldn’t gather due to COVID-19.
Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers of the protest for Indian farmers, said organizers were told by Surrey RCMP Saturday (Jan. 16) as they were arriving that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19.
Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute, with a drive-by past “E” Division in Green Timbers.
“We’re just being nimble with this. I think we’re not going to give up our fight to protest,” she explained. “That’s one of the things they don’t have in India. We have a lot of democratic rights here in British Columbia and throughout Canada, but to see what’s going on in India, our hearts are on fire right now. To suggest we suppress our voices in Canada, a democratic country, doesn’t sit well with most of us.”
Dhaliwal pointed to a tweet from Surrey RCMP on Friday afternoon stating “Police are aware of a large public gathering planned” in Cloverdale. The Surrey RCMP tweet added police would be working alongside the City of Surrey bylaw department “to ensure public safety and compliance with health orders. Public health orders are in place to protect our community, and will be enforced.”
The Now-Leader has reached out to the Surrey RCMP for comment.
Police are aware of a large public gathering planned tomorrow in #Cloverdale and will be working alongside @CityofSurrey Bylaws to ensure public safety and compliance with health orders. Public health orders are in place to protect our community, and will be enforced.
— Surrey RCMP (@SurreyRCMP) January 15, 2021
Dhaliwal said the protest “wasn’t a gathering,” and the tweet was a “bit of a surprise.”
“We’re really disappointed in the actions of the Surrey RCMP today. We had organized a civil and peaceful protest today following COVID measures. Despite our best efforts, the protest was shut down,” Dhaliwal told media in the parking lot outside of the Cineplex in Strawberry Hill.
“The main source of the frustration was the RCMP had been consulted along the way, in various forms. They actually held meetings with us and suggested what we do through one of the individuals that works with them.”
She pointed out that there have been anti-mask rallies in the Lower Mainland, specifically outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
“We ensured that there were COVID measures in place. In fact, we had a rally scheduled a couple of weeks ago and we postponed it to ensure we had additional COVID measures in place.”
However, Dhaliwal said there are no plans to stop protesting and bringing awareness to what’s happening in India.
“We will work with authorities, but authorities also need to work with us and need to understand our culture,” she said.
There have been several rallies in Cloverdale since late 2020 to support the farmers in India who are protesting three bills that had been put forward to the country’s central government in September.
Moninder Singh, the spokesperson for the B.C. Gurdwaras Council, previously told the Now-Leader there were three bills put forward in India’s central government back in September that would affect “small-time farmers” in India.
“What it essentially does is it takes away something called the MSP, which is the minimum support price that farmers rely on. So depending on how the economy’s going… they have a minimum support price they can rely on that the government will buy their produce and their product at. Once that’s stripped away, they’re left to a free market,” explained Singh.
“In that part of the world, a free market is essentially a death sentence for most of these small-time farmers.”
He added it leaves the farmers “at the power of the larger corporations” who can, with no minimum support price, “lower the prices which they buy at.”
— Lauren Collins (@laurenpcollins1) January 16, 2021
Dhaliwal said one of the points of Saturday’s rally was to talk about Jan. 26, which is Republic Day in India. She added it’s a basically a military day parade “full of pomp and circumstance and pageantry.”
“Why this is important is the military plays a really interesting role in the propaganda machine that is India,” she noted.
“We are Punjabi people and the diaspora has spread rapidly throughout the world. So one of the things that has happened is we have mobilized very quickly because our seeds have spread everywhere in the world. From here in Vancouver to Auckland to Singapore to London, California, we are everywhere. Because of that, we are mobilizing everyone through one single day of action.”
On Jan. 26, Dhaliwal said the plan is to “ask India why.”
“We have asked everyone to ask India ‘Why?’ Ask India why they’re killing us. Ask India why they are oppressing us, why they’re silencing us, why they are persecuting minorities.”
Dhaliwal said for more information to visit askindiawhy.com.