India will continue its agricultural reform in depth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, criticizing the deadly violence last week.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said protesters who stormed New Delhi’s Red Fort last week caused an ‘insult’ to the country and that his government would continue with its in-depth agricultural reform, its first public commentary on an agricultural turmoil lasting several months.
“The country was saddened by the insult to the tricolor [Indian flag] January 26 in Delhi, ”Modi said in a radio speech on Sunday.
“The government is committed to modernizing agriculture and is also taking many steps in this direction.
Tens of thousands of farmers camped on the outskirts of the capital for more than two months, protesting new farm laws which they say benefit private buyers at the expense of farmers.
Tuesday’s Republic Day tractor parade turned violent as some protesters deviated from predetermined routes, clashing with police and breaking into the capital’s historic Red Fort complex.
Protesters invaded the 400-year-old, World Heritage-listed fort, displaying religious flags and agricultural unions, but did not remove the national flag from the top of the monument.
One protester died and hundreds, including police officers, were injured in the clashes.
Farmers say they were not responsible for the violence, that it was caused by a minority of those who participated in the parade, and that they will resume talks with the government.
Modi told leaders of opposition parties on Saturday that an offer to freeze the laws for 18 months was still valid, according to a government summary of the meeting.
Agriculture employs around half of India’s workforce, and unrest among an estimated 150 million landowner farmers is one of the biggest challenges Modi’s regime has faced since taking office in 2014. .
Modi’s comments came as police arrested at least one journalist and filed complaints against others, fueling fears of a media crackdown over reporting of the protests.
Mandeep Punia, who writes for the English-language magazine Caravan, was arrested on Saturday in Singhu, one of the main protest sites.
He was pictured being taken to court on Sunday, where he is expected to be charged with unknown offenses, local media reported.
As of Tuesday, at least five complaints have been registered against Indian journalists and an opposition congressman over several allegations, including sedition and criminal conspiracy.
The global media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has called for Punia and another journalist who was also allegedly detained to be released immediately.
“Indian authorities should allow journalists to do their jobs without interference,” CPJ tweeted on Saturday evening.