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Indian Farmer will Continue Protests: Leader

Indian Farmer will Continue Protests: Leader

NEW DELHI – Leaders of farmers’ unions in India condemned the violence at a “tractor rally” organized by farmers in the Indian capital to demand the repeal of new farm laws.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of farmers started the day in a convoy of tractors adorned with Indian and religious flags along the outskirts of New Delhi as the country celebrated its Republic Day.
But hundreds of protesters – some on horseback – strayed from approved routes, heading to government buildings in the city center where the annual Republic Day parade of troops and military equipment was taking place.
Some of the protesters reached the Mughal-era Red Fort compound in the oldest part of the capital, carrying ceremonial swords and dispersing police who tried to prevent them from entering.
Once inside, they affixed their own emblem to the flagpole where the Indian Prime Minister normally gives a speech on Independence Day in August.
Protest organizer Samyukt Kisan Morcha said: “We also condemn and regret the unwanted and unacceptable events that have taken place today and we dissociate ourselves from those who engage in such acts,” the group of agricultural unions said in a statement. Leaders of the farmers said the police pushed them to violence.
“When you attack a peaceful protest, the hardships for the government will surely increase,” union leader Kawalpreet Singh Pannu told AFP news agency.
“It won’t stop here. Our movement and our message are only getting stronger.”
On Twitter, the hashtag #PeacefulProtestsContinue was all the rage in India on Wednesday.
Pannu said a new protest will take place on February 1 in front of parliament when the government announces its annual budget.
Leaders of the farmers’ unions say they have enough supplies to run their protest camps for a year if needed.
Interior Minister Amit Shah held an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening over the two-month protests against agricultural laws that have become the biggest challenge for the Hindu nationalist government since taking office in 2014.
The Indian government ordered 2,000 paramilitary reinforcements in New Delhi after thousands of farmers battled the streets with police and stormed the 400-year-old Red Fort.
A number of main roads were blocked by police and security forces erected barricades, resulting in heavy traffic jams. Riot police were stationed near Fort Rouge.
Security has also been tightened on the outskirts of the city, where thousands of farmers have been camping since November.
Several New Delhi metro stations were closed for a second day, while internet services in many areas were suspended.
Farmers call for the repeal of three agricultural laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in September last year.
While the government says the legislation will increase rural incomes, leaders of farmers’ unions say the laws will give Indian conglomerates control over the agricultural industry – the bedrock of the economy – and end guaranteed prices for most agricultural products.
Peasant leaders rejected the government’s offer to suspend law enforcement for 18 months.
Ten rounds of talks between agricultural unions and ministers failed to break the deadlock.
Smaller farmer protests took place in Mumbai and Bangalore and in the states of Punjab and Haryana.

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