Opposition parties are avoiding the opening day of Parliament’s budget session as farmers continue to protest against new farm laws.
India’s main opposition parties boycotted the opening day of Parliament’s budget session in solidarity with farmers in a two-month standoff over new farm laws the government refuses to repeal.
A congressional party statement said Friday that 16 opposition parties boycotted the president’s speech in parliament “in full solidarity with the restless farmers whom the Modi government is trying to defame.”
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech to Parliament listing the government’s budget priorities was boycotted by several opposition parties.
The budget is due on Monday.
Sanjay Singh, member of parliament from the Aam Aadmi party, told Indian news agency ANI that his party “protested the president’s speech and raised slogans in favor of farmers.”
“We were not allowed to enter the [parliament’s] central room, so we launched slogans at its door. Farmers are called traitors. So we boycotted the address, ”he said.
“Farm laws should be repealed.”
Delhi: Hanuman Beniwal, MP for Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), held up a sign and raised slogans, demanding the repeal of the three agricultural laws, during the president’s speech in parliament today.
(Source: Hanuman Beniwal) pic.twitter.com/bnsMH9byoT
– ANI (@ANI) January 29, 2021
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said “it’s a shame that the whole opposition boycotted” the president’s speech.
In his address, President Kovind also called Tuesday’s violence “unfortunate” and said that people in a democracy are expected to respect the rule of law.
Clashes break out
On Friday, clashes erupted between protesting farmers and a group of men shouting anti-farmer and pro-police slogans at the Singhu border – one of the sites of protests that began in late November. The authorities used tear gas and batons to stop the fighting.
Peasant leaders accused local police and politicians of causing skirmishes at the site on the outskirts of New Delhi.
In a standoff between riot police and farmers, authorities attempted Thursday night to clear a protest site in Ghazipur, in the eastern part of the city, but most farmers refused to come and many joined them.
Their leaders said any retreat would constitute surrender.
“Concerned about the violence of the police, thousands of farmers, who were not part of the protest, have now come to strengthen our movement,” said Rakesh Tikait, president of one of the largest farmers’ unions, Bharatiya Kisan Union on Friday.
The violence of the Red Fort
As India celebrated its Republic Day on Tuesday, tens of thousands of tractor and foot farmers stormed the Mughal-era Red Fort in a brief but shocking takeover that took place live on the news channels.
Clashes between protesters and government forces left one protester dead and nearly 400 police officers injured.
After the violence, three small groups among more than 40 peasant organizations disassociated themselves from the demonstration.
Police said they arrested 19 protesters and detained 50 others for questioning under strict sedition and other laws, and key farmers’ leaders were wanted for questioning.
Traffic crawled on the outskirts of India’s capital on Friday as authorities rushed hundreds of riot police to three of the farmer campsites in hopes of convincing protesters to return home.
But farmers have pledged to stay until the laws are repealed, but several rounds of negotiations with the government have failed.
The protests have been the biggest challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi since coming to power in 2014. He says new laws are needed to modernize Indian agriculture.
But farmers say the new laws will turn farming into a business and remove a system that guarantees minimum prices for their produce.