Thousands of Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades on Tuesday to enter the historic Red Fort complex in the capital and hoist flags after clashing with police, who fired tear gas to restrain them.
Growers, angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, have camped outside New Delhi for two months. It is one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.
“Modi will hear us now, he will have to hear us now,” said Sukhdev Singh, 55, a farmer.
He was one of the hundreds of protesters who broke away from the main route of the tractor protest. Moreover, the Indian capital also hosts an annual Republic Day military parade.
Thousands of Indian farmers, many on tractors, breached police barricades
Indian farmers commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down roadblocks miles from routes approved by the police. Meanwhile, they forced constables in riot gear to fall back and let them pass, Reuters witnesses said. Reuters could not immediately reach police officials for comment.
They commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down roadblocks miles from routes approved by the police. They forced constables in riot gear to fall back and let them pass, Reuters witnesses said. Reuters could not immediately reach police officials for comment.
Responding to reports of the clash, the protest organizer said only one of its parades had deviated from pre-arranged routes.
“Except for one group…our news is that all parades are happening on the pre-decided routes along with police,” the grouping of farm unions said.
Meanwhile, earlier, tens of thousands of bearded and turbanned farmers, many bundled against the winter cold. Moreover, they began the day by driving a convoy of tractors festooned with the flags of India and their unions.
Agriculture employs about half of India’s population of 1.3 billion. Unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers worries the government.
Nine rounds of talks with farmers’ unions have failed to end the protests. Farm leaders rejected the government’s offer to delay the laws for 18 months, making a push for repeal instead.
Sikhs farmers hoist ‘Khalistan’ flag on Red Fort
According to Indian media reports, Protesters have now entered the Red Fort complex and hoisted the Khalistan flag.
“The farm organizations have a very stronghold,” said Ambar Kumar Ghosh, an analyst.
“They have the resources to mobilize support, and to continue the protest for a long time. They have also been very successful in keeping the protest really focused.”
Meanwhile, the protests threaten to overshadow the annual military parade to mark the 1950 adoption of India’s constitution.
“They could have chosen any other day instead of January 26 but they have announced now,” said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
“Conducting the rally peacefully without any accident would be the concern for farmers as well as police.”
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