Vancouver writer, poet, dancer, and actor Sherry Duggal has joined the growing chorus against controversial farming laws brought forward by India’s right-wing Hindu nationalist government led by Narendra Modi.
Also a naturopath and a teacher, Duggal has given voice to the protesting farmers who are camping outside New Delhi through her poem “I stand with farmers”.
Thousands of farmers have come into the streets to denounce laws that are threatening their livelihood and are aimed to benefit corporations by rolling back subsidies and protections given to the agricultural sector in India for years.
Indian police used excessive force to prevent farmers from marching to the national capital, sparking angry demonstrations in Canada. Braving extremely cold weather conditions, the farmers continue their siege in New Delhi, even as the government has refused to revoke the laws.
Duggal has been following these developments on Facebook, which prompted her to conduct research on her own.
She told the Straight that she was deeply hurt by what was happening in her homeland. Born to the parents of Indian origin, she said “I think this has a universal significance. What is going to happen in India is going to set a precedent for all over the world and not in a good way. If corporate organizations have control over our food, our health, our environment, I think everything will be compromised.”
Although she does not claim to be a feminist, her poem focuses on the role of women in farming and their participation in the ongoing struggle.
She emphasized the famers’ deep connection with the Earth which according to her, is treated by them as Mother.
“No one can take the Mother away,” she said with a lump in her throat while trying to hold back her tears.
She pointed out that Indian farmers are feeding everyone to underline the importance of their agitation for the global community. Adding that they are producing anything from spices to cotton, she clarified that she is not being ethnocentric and is speaking from the standpoint of being human.
“Human rights are being violated there as in every part of the world. But either way it should not be happening.”
Duggal also recently produced Pandemic Dance, which is posted on YouTube.
The video has generated a lot of curiosity and interest among people grappling with anxiety caused by social distancing and isolation in the time of COVID-19.
Through her performance, punctuated with expressions of sadness and fear, she makes us travel through what the real world is facing.
Notably, she has previously made a video of her poem on racism. Titled “Between the Pages”, it is also available on YouTube.