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26 Jan 2021

Hannah Ellis-Petersen & Aakash Hassan, The Guardian

India: Protesting farmers met with police violence at Delhi's Red Fort

Indian farmers march to Delhi to protest agricultural reform law, 2020

Farmers protesting against new agriculture laws in India broke through police barricades around the capital and entered the grounds of Delhi’s historic Red Fort on Tuesday, in chaotic and violent scenes that overshadowed the country’s Republic Day celebrations.

Police hit protesters with batons and fired teargas to try to disperse the crowds after hundreds of thousands of farmers, many on tractors or horses, marched on the capital. One protester was confirmed to have died in the clashes and dozens of police and protesters were injured.

Mobile internet services were suspended in parts of Delhi and some metro stations closed. As the clashes continued into the afternoon, home minister Amit Shah met Delhi police to discuss how to get the protests under control.

... Authorities had agreed to let the farmers stage a tractor rally as long as they waited for the official Republic Day parade to finish. But flag-waving protesters on at least four major arteries climbed over or just pushed aside the barricades and concrete blocks and pressed on into the city.

... Agriculture employs more than 40% of India’s population but it is a sector plagued by poverty and inefficiency, with farmers often selling their crops at less than cost . Rates of farmer suicides in India are among the highest in the world.

Farmers say their plight has been ignored for decades and that the changes, aiming at bringing private investment into agriculture, will only put farmers at the mercy of large corporations.

... Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation representing more than 40 farmers’ unions, condemned those who had taken part in the clashes and said that “anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement”.

“We condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts,” said the group in a statement.