Farmers’ protests in India | Police block access to capital New Delhi

(Shambhu) Indian riot police fired tear gas on Wednesday, for the second day in a row, to prevent thousands of farmers demanding rock-bottom prices for their crops from crossing heavily guarded barricades to march on the capital New Delhi.

Farmers called this week for a “Delhi Chalo” (a march on Delhi) which evokes their demonstration on January 26, 2021 when they forced police blockades to enter New Delhi on Republic Day, during a conflict of several months with the government. They were then protesting against the liberalization of agricultural markets.

But this time, the long convoys of tractors were blocked by imposing barricades of concrete blocks and barbed wire guarded by the police.

Farmers are demanding the setting of a minimum price for crops as well as a series of other concessions, including the cancellation of debts.

Tear gas was fired in Shambhu, about 200 kilometers north of the capital on the Punjab-Haryana state border, where the main group of farmers was stopped, journalists said. ‘AFP on site.

“The police treat us as if we come from an enemy country,” storms Mohan Singh, a 65-year-old farmer from Kapurthala district, in Punjab, some 415 kilometers from New Delhi.

“All we want is to go to Delhi and assert our rights, but more than 150 of us have been injured,” he says.

Haryana state police said in a statement late Tuesday that “heavy stones” were thrown at police officers and 24 officers were injured.

Farmers in India enjoy significant political influence due to their numbers. The threat of further protests comes ahead of national elections expected in April.

Two-thirds of the population of 1.4 billion make a living from agriculture, which accounts for almost a fifth of the country’s GDP, according to official figures.

“We will overcome all obstacles”

For the second day in a row, Indian security forces fired tear gas on Wednesday, including from drones, while farmers sought to clear the roads by forcing the barricades with their tractors.

“We are just waiting for the green light from our leaders,” says Santokh Singh, 65, from Ludhiana in Punjab. “Once it is given, we will overcome all obstacles. »

But agricultural union leaders called on protesters to exercise restraint. “We will win this battle and go to Delhi,” one of them shouts into a microphone. “But we can’t afford to lose our cool. »

Police set up roadblocks on the main roads leading to the capital from the three neighboring states. Mobile internet was cut in some parts of Haryana.

In places, ditches were dug to stop tractors, with some farmers trying to get around the barricades by driving through fields.

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda said a law guaranteeing a floor support price for crops “cannot be passed in haste”, news agency PTI (Press Trust of India) reported on Tuesday. .

Discussions with agricultural unions are continuing, assured Mr. Munda, while urging demonstrators to be “vigilant” against those who seek to exploit the demonstrations for “political advantages”.

The latest protests by farmers, opposed to agricultural reform in November 2020, lasted more than a year, until the fall of 2021, and posed the greatest challenge to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014. These demonstrations left at least 700 dead. The three contested laws were repealed in November 2021.

Thousands of Indian farmers commit suicide every year due to poverty, debt and crops affected by increasingly erratic weather due to climate change.


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