Movement leaders condemn violence, thank farmers for remaining largely peaceful as thousands take to the streets to make their voices heard
India’s Republic Day 2021 turned out to be an unprecedented show of solidarity by farmers demanding that the three contentious, recent laws related to agriculture be repealed. Caravans of tractors entered Delhi from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan entered Delhi even as the Union government held the customary march on Rajpath.
Farmer leaders had already put out route maps to and from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders for the rallies. Huge crowds thronged those borders as well as some others in south and south-west Delhi since morning. They received support from locals too. Many ventured out to welcome them or provide them with drinking water.
Several farmers Down To Earth spoke to reiterated that their goal was to highlight that the farm laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government would be detrimental to countless farmers of the country as well as to agriculture and economy in general.
The protests remained largely peaceful and on course; however, there were stray incidents where groups deviated from pre-decided routes and faced tear-gassing. Some even reached the historic Red Fort and put up a flag.
One farmer reportedly died after his tractor overturned near New Delhi. Telecom / Internet services were reportedly suspended in some parts temporarily. In some areas, roads were found blocked until evening.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella group of farmers’ unions and groups that have been negotiating with the government, condemned such incidents but claimed the rallies were mostly peaceful and thanked farmers.
Farmers across the country have been protesting against the laws and the Ordinances before that, which the Union government enforced during the countrywide lockdown to curb the novel coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19) last summer. Even in Parliament, the bills were passed without a distinct division of votes in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon session.
Protesting farmers, largely from Punjab, have thronged the Capital’s border for the last two months, braving inclement weather. Farmer leaders, representing various unions and groups, have met the government several times to resolve the issue. Even the Supreme Court stepped after some parties pleaded for its interference. The farmers’ leadership though has held that the negotiations should be between them and the government.
Eventually, the process hit a dead-end when Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar announced January 22 announced that the most the government could do was to ‘hold’ the laws for a year or a year-and-a-half. The unions did not accept that.
The Centre hasn’t clarified how laws enacted by Parliament could be suspended for the time being.
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