- Farmers in India have protested for months over controversial farming laws that seek to remove the government’s popular minimum sales price on crops.
- In an effort to slow down the increasingly violent demonstrations and information surrounding them, the Indian government shut down the internet in New Delhi and neighboring regions.
- High profile stars and activists have condemned the move, including Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, and Mia Khalifa.
- However, the Indian government has accused celebrities of spreading “sensationalism” and suggested they are being paid to post their support for the protests.
Farmers Hope To Save Minimum Sale Price
For months, Indian farmers have been protesting a controversial set of laws that would fundamentally change their relationship with the government and how they sell crops.
At the center of the issue are three laws. One in particular deals with what’s known as the Minimum Sale Price (MSP). The MSP is a set, guaranteed price for crops established by the government, meaning farmers are not allowed to sell below that price. It allows for farmers to compete with not only each other but also with larger corporations who could otherwise drop the price so low and push smaller farmers from the market.
For many farmers, the MSP also allows them to comfortably plan future crop cycles, knowing that can budget a likely minimum income.
There are some drawbacks to the MSP. For instance, it means that crop prices can remain high for many Indians. Additionally, if there isn’t as much demand for a given crop, farmers can’t lower their prices in an effort to at least sell some of it.
Regardless, it remains popular, and the issue is so important that some of the protests over the last few months have been among the largest in human history. At one point, other unions around India partook in a general strike, leading to 250 million people protesting the law.
However, the most recent protests over the last week saw tens of thousands of farmers bringing their tractors to the capital, New Delhi, despite warnings from authorities not to do so. Police claim that the tractors are destructive to the city’s roads and that was reason enough to prohibit them, but activists think it was a way to try and curb involvement.
The protests turned violent last Tuesday, which is known as Republic Day, when protesters stormed the historic Red Fort before being beaten back by police with tear gas and batons. Similar scenes continue into the weekend. In an effort to slow down the protests, although the move has been criticized as an attempt to hide what is going on, Indian authorities decided to try and reduce the influence of the protests by locally turning off the internet until at least Tuesday.
It included not only New Delhi but the border regions of the nearby states as well.
Protests Draw International Support
The move prompted outrage not only in India, where the protests already had hundreds of millions of supporters but also among people across the world. Notably, many Western stars, including pop singer Rihanna, started to actively talk about the situation
“Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Rihanna tweeted out on Tuesday night with a link to an article about the internet blackout. That tweet was well received by many, with the likes of YouTuber turned late-night host Lilly Singh tweeting out, “Yes! Thank you so much Rihanna. This is a humanity issue! #IStandWithFarmers and this narrative is TIRED.”
Some figures were more involved in attacking how the Indian government was handling the situation. Internet star Mia Khalifa wrote, “What in the human rights violations is going on?! They cut the internet around New Delhi?! #FarmersProtest”
She also confronted the government’s narrative that many of the protesters were paid, writing, “Paid actors,” huh? Quite the casting director, I hope they’re not overlooked during awards season. I stand with the farmers. #FarmersProtest”
Others, like young climate change activist Greta Thunberg, simply wrote, “we stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” She also linked to resources for anyone who wants to be more involved.
Her message about solidarity has actually been echoed by not only activists but farmers around the world for months. Many of them feel their industries are completely necessary for society but are often unprofitable without government subsidies, such as those in India.
The Indian government, for its part, still doesn’t want to back down from the laws and accused the celebrities of spreading “sensationalism.”
Supporters of the government claim that celebrities using #FarmersProtest are being paid to post and have even suggested that the trending hashtag itself is being paid for.
See What Others Are Saying: (CNN) (NYT) (The Guardian)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)
Israel Moves to Build Over 4,000 West Bank Settlements as Palestinian Homes Demolished
The Israeli military is proceeding with a plan to evict at least 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
Settlers Get Ready to Move in
On Thursday, a military planning body in the Israeli-occupied West Bank approved the construction of 4,427 housing units, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.
“The State of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” Hagit Ofran, an expert at Peace Now, said via the Associated Press.
The plan is the largest advancement of settlement projects since President Joe Biden took office in the United States.
The U.S. opposes settlement expansion and said as much when the plan was first announced last week, but critics say Washington has done little to pressure Israel to stop.
In a statement, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland called the settlements a “major obstacle to peace.”
“Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.
In October, Israel approved some 3,000 settlement homes despite a U.S. rebuke. There are currently over 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank harboring almost 500,000 settlers, in addition to the nearly three million Palestinians living in the territory.
Palestinians Pushed Off Their Land
On Wednesday, the same day Israeli soldiers allegedly shot and killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the military demolished at least 18 buildings in the West Bank, including 12 residential ones.
Israel’s supreme court has also ruled that eight Palestinian hamlets can be expelled, potentially leaving at least 1,000 Palestinians homeless.
The area targeted is known as the Masafer Yatta, and its residents say they have been herding animals and practicing traditional desert agriculture there for decades, long before Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. Israel, however, claims there were no permanent structures there before the military designated it a firing zone in the 1980s
“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” Sami Huraini, an activist and a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild.”