Clashes as farmers organize “tractor rally” to coincide with Indian Republic Day celebrations to demand repeal of new farm laws.
New Delhi, India – A rally of tens of thousands of Indian farmers in the capital New Delhi turned violent, with police using tear gas and baton charging at protesters as they passed through barricades.
The clashes took place on Tuesday morning as farmers staged a “tractor rally” in the town to coincide with the Indian Republic Day celebrations. They are calling for the repeal of three agricultural laws passed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.
Protesters defied the tear gas bombings and continued to march on the highway, slogans against the government.
Waving multicolored flags of different colors and holding placards, protesting peasants marched on tractors and on foot from the outskirts of town, where they had been camping for two months.
“We will not surrender. We will win or die, ”reads a sign, reflecting sentiment that has galvanized farmers against new laws, which they say will destroy their livelihoods by allowing private companies to control the country’s vast agricultural sector.
At the Singhu border, outside New Delhi, the epicenter of the protests that lasted for weeks, hundreds of police and paramilitary forces were seen, some carrying batons, assault rifles and guns. tear gas, as a water cannon stood nearby.
Police blocked several roads to the capital with metal and concrete barricades and trucks so that marching farmers could only use routes authorized by the authorities.
Gurbachan Singh, 73, of Amritsar, Punjab, which has 4.8 hectares of land, slept on a tractor all night, braving the freezing cold, so he could take the lead in the rally. tractors.
“They made these laws and we will have them repealed,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that the tractor rally was a “show of our solidarity and a show of force.”
“I’m not worried about my age and I’m afraid of getting hurt or hurt during the rally.”
Gurjant Singh from Goindwal in the Tarn Taran district of Punjab has been at the Singhu border protest site for 10 days.
“We will not return home until these laws are restored,” he said.
Several rounds of negotiations between the government and the farmers’ unions have failed. Farmers also rejected the government’s offer to suspend laws for 18 months.
Singh fears the laws will take away his land and livelihood. He defended the traditional system of government-controlled markets for their products, sold through a commission agent.
“In times of financial crisis, we seek the help of commissionaires. Even if we go to the agent in the middle of the night, they will help us. Will big companies do this? He asked.
“If we don’t want these laws, why is this government applying them to us? These laws should have been developed with the consent of the farmers, but they impose the laws on us. “