Police fire tear gas to disperse protesting farmers outside Delhi

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesting farmers outside Delhi

Police officials rained tear gas from drones and erected iron nails on Delhi’s borders to stop protesting farmers from approaching the Indian capital on Tuesday to seek talks with Narendra Modi’s government on guaranteed minimum prices for crops.

Indian police fortified the capital’s entry points on Monday evening with barbed wires, heavy concrete slabs, iron nails, and barricades and deployed paramilitary forces in the northern part of the city to stop tens of thousands of farmers seeking entry on tractors and trucks.

The farmers from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana launched a peaceful “Delhi Chalo (Go to Delhi)” campaign and said they were ready to camp in the city and even outside on the border entry points in order to get the federal administration to address their demands of fair pricing for their produce in the Indian agricultural markets.

In an eerie repeat of 2020 protests over hastily cleared agricultural laws which brought the Modi government to a halt and were later revoked, the farmers said they were ready for a longstanding confrontation with the administration till their demands were met.

The march began in Haryana and Punjab this month as the farmers sought a Minimum Support Price (MSP) from the central government covering all farm produce, a standard practice in India for offering blanket legal protection and compensating the farmers for essential crops at the beginning of the sowing season against the cost of production.

The farmers are also demanding the Indian government fulfill its promise of doubling their income.

Large gatherings, including weddings and funerals without permission, have been prohibited in the capital for a month and internet services have also been suspended in some parts of Haryana, where a large number of farmers are waiting, to hamper their communication.

Several metro stations in central Delhi leading to parliament and ministries have been shut down. Farmers say they are trying to cross Haryana and enter Delhi where they can peacefully protest.

Major roads inside Delhi have been choked by traffic as police officials checked vehicles.

“..Around 10,000 people are here at the Shambhu border. The farmers are maintaining a peaceful situation here and tear gas is being used against us through drones. (Protest) will continue until the government agrees to our demands,” Sarwan Singh Pandher, leader of Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a farmers’ group, said.

“We want a resolution of our issues through dialogue. But if they (the government) do nothing, then what will we do? It is our compulsion,” he said.

The protests come three months before India is set to hold its federal assembly elections to elect a new parliament.

A discussion around MSP is likely to sway the manifestos released by political parties ahead of the elections.

In November 2021 when the Modi administration withdrew its contentious agricultural laws, marking a major step back from its bullish stance against protests, it assured a panel will be set up for farmers and government to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce.

However, no common agreement has been made to offer a MSP to farmers.

Farmers from Haryana and Punjab, known as India’s bread basket, form a sizeable chunk of population and send 23 lawmakers to India’s lower house of Parliament.

The federal administration has not issued a comment on the continuing protests on the borders of New Delhi.