Clashes erupt at key farmer protest site in New Delhi

People shouting anti-farm slogans throw stones at the site of the protest against agricultural laws at the Singhu border near New Delhi, India on January 29, 2021

Protesting farmers want government to withdraw three new farm laws they say will hurt their livelihoods

Clashes erupted between protesting Indian farmers and a group of men shouting anti-farmer and pro-police slogans on Friday, and authorities used tear gas and batons to break up the fight at one of the many sites. protest near the capital New Delhi.

Farmer leaders accused local police and politicians of staging skirmishes at the northern site to turn sentiment against them after thousands of farmers marched overnight to reinforce their colleagues camping on the outskirts of New Delhi.

The protesting farmers want the government to withdraw three new farm laws they say will hurt their livelihoods for the benefit of large private buyers of produce.

In a standoff between riot police and farmers, authorities attempted Thursday night to clear a protest site in the east of the city, but most farmers refused to budge and large numbers joined them.

Their leaders said any retreat would constitute surrender.

“Worried about police arbitrariness, thousands of farmers, who were not part of the protest, have now come to support our movement,” Rakesh Tikait, chairman of one of the largest unions, told Reuters on Friday. of farmers, the Bharti Kisan Union. .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced the new farm laws in September, sparking a wave of protests and sit-ins on some of the main approaches to New Delhi.

Farm leaders say the laws are an attempt to erode a long-standing mechanism that guarantees farmers a minimum support price for their rice and wheat.

The government says the reforms will open up new opportunities for farmers and will not bow to protesters’ demands.

Modi retains a strong majority in parliament although protests are starting to undermine some support for the government in the countryside.

The protest turned violent on Tuesday, when India celebrated its Republic Day with a military parade, when some protesters parted from a procession of tractors to break down the barricade and confront the police.

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