BBC 🔵 Farmers’ protest: Delhi turns into fortress as thousands march to India capital – Shango Media
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BBC 🔵 Farmers’ protest: Delhi turns into fortress as thousands march to India capital

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Thousands of protesting farmers are marching from neighbouring states to India’s capital Delhi to seek assured prices for their crops

In 2020, farmers had camped at Delhi borders protesting against controversial agricultural reforms.

The year-long protest – in which dozens died – was called off after the government agreed to repeal the laws.

On Monday, police fired tear gas at them at the Shambhu border between Haryana and Punjab states.

Farmers, most of whom are from Punjab, say they want to peacefully cross Haryana to reach Delhi but they have not been allowed to do so. Scuffles between police and protesters have also been reported at the Shambhu border and the situation remains tense.

Farmers say they will protest in Delhi until their key demands have been fulfilled.

Police in Delhi have sealed the borders on three sides of the city, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of 2020 when protesting farmers hunkered down for months, blocking national highways that connect the capital to its neighbouring states. The movement was seen as one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Traffic jams and disruptions have been reported across Delhi on Tuesday as authorities diverted routes and blocked roads.

Two rounds of talks between farm union leaders and federal ministers have so far failed to break the deadlock.

Farmers are asking for assured floor prices – also known as minimum support price or MSP – which allows them to sell a majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis. They are also demanding that the government fulfil its promise of doubling farmers’ income.

  • Families mourn farmers who died during protests

The march comes just months before the general elections in which Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a third term in power. Farmers form one of the most influential voting blocs in India and experts say the government would try not to alienate them ahead of the polls.

Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel stand guard at a road block during a strike called by farmers

Getty Images

On Monday, federal ministers held a six-hour-long meeting with farm union leaders. The two sides reportedly came to an agreement on some of the demands, including the withdrawal of cases registered against protesters during the 2020 agitation.

But there was no consensus on the MSP. In 2021, after the farm laws were repealed, the government had said it would set up a panel to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce. But the committee is yet to submit its report.

In the meantime, authorities have deployed barricades, fenced the border with barbed wire and added cement blocks to stop protesters from entering the capital.

  • Families mourn farmers who died during protests
  • India’s farmers end year of mass protests

Police have also prohibited large gatherings in the city, including at borders points between Delhi and the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states through which the farmers are expected to reach the capital.

In Haryana, the BJP-led state government has suspended internet services in seven districts until Tuesday.

Over 200 farmer unions are participating in the march. « We will move peacefully and our objective is that the government listens to our demands, » Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, told the ANI news agency.

Farmers’ and trade unions have also announced a rural strike on 16 February during which no agricultural activities will be carried out. Shops, markets and offices in all villages will be closed while farmers will block major roads across the country.

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