Farmers Protest: Thousands Descend on India’s capital, Delhi, Transforming it into a Fortress

Northern Indian police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of thousands of farmers who were demonstrating for a minimum price for their crops and wanted to march to Delhi.

Razor wire, masonry blocks, and fencing surround the capital on three sides to contain any potential protests.

The administration is worried that another 2020 will occur, when scores of people died after a yearlong demonstration that concluded when ministers agreed to remove contentious agricultural regulations.

The farmers, however, claim that other demands still have not been addressed after three years.

An important voting bloc in India consists of farmers, and experts predict that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration will do its best to keep them from becoming alienated. In this year’s general election, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is vying for power for a third straight term.

Images from Tuesday’s protests near Ambala, 125 miles (200 km) north of the capital, showed heavy deployment of tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Separating the states of Haryana and Punjab, police used tear gas at the Shambhu border on Monday.

A large number of Punjabi farmers have expressed their desire to peacefully traverse Haryana on their way to Delhi, but so yet, this has not been permitted. There have been reports of clashes between protesters and police at the Shambhu border, and the situation is still tense.

Protesting farmers in 2020 barricaded national roadways that link the nation’s capital to adjacent states for months on end. Many saw the movement as a major threat to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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On Tuesday, authorities in Delhi closed highways and redirected traffic, causing delays and interruptions around the city.

Large gatherings in Delhi are also barred by the police, as are those at the border points with the adjacent states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, where the farmers are anticipated to go in order to reach the capital.

The state government of Haryana, which is dominated by the BJP, has cut off internet access in seven districts until Tuesday. Federal ministers and farm union officials have met twice to discuss the impasse, but neither side has been able to budge.

In order to sell the majority of their crops at government-controlled wholesale markets, or mandis, farmers are requesting guaranteed floor prices, which are also called minimum support prices (MSPs). Additionally, they want the government to follow through on its pledge to increase farmers’ income by 100%.

Earlier this week, federal ministers engaged in a lengthy discussion with farm union leaders. According to reports, both parties have reached an agreement on certain demands, such as the resolution of cases filed against demonstrators during the 2020 protests.

However, there was no agreement reached regarding the MSP. In 2021, following the repeal of the farm laws, the government announced its intention to establish a panel to explore methods of guaranteeing support prices for all agricultural products. However, the committee has not yet submitted its report.

Over 200 farmer unions have joined the march. “Our intention is to peacefully advocate for the government’s attention to our demands,” stated Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, in an interview with ANI news agency.

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On 16 February, farmers’ and trade unions have declared a rural strike, during which all agricultural activities will come to a halt. Shops, markets, and offices in all villages will be closed, while farmers plan to block major roads across the country.

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