Farmers driving tractors protesting shout slogans as they march into the capital during the Indian Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on Tuesday. Altaf Qadri / AP Hide caption
Altaf Qadri / AP
Altaf Qadri / AP
Tens of thousands of farmers rolled into the Indian capital in tractors adorned with Indian flags on Tuesday, overshadowing a traditional military parade on a national holiday. They broke barricades, clashed with the police, and occupied the 17th-century city walls of the 17th-century Red Fort – a tourist attraction and a symbol of Indian power.
It was one of the largest protests in New Delhi with vivid memories and presented a new challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, who was re-elected in a landslide in 2019.
Farmers had been have been protesting on the outskirts of New Delhi for months. They are asking for the repeal of three agricultural laws Adopted by the Modi government in September, aiming to liberalize wholesale product markets. Farmers fear they will lose price guarantees, even though the government insists they will not.
over two thirds of the Indians Work in agriculture in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Many Indian families have roots in agriculture and solidarity rallies have broken out across India.
“We came here to support the farmers! Because they don’t get what they want,” said office worker Megha Mallick, who gathered with hundreds of other supporters on a cricket field in central Mumbai.
She and her friends were dressed in white, orange, and green – the colors of the Indian flag.
Farmers and their supporters hoist flags over the historic Red Fort Memorial in New Delhi on Tuesday. Dinesh Joshi / AP hide caption
Dinesh Joshi / AP
The violence on Tuesday occurred on Republic Day, a national holiday that marks 71 years after India’s post-colonial constitution came into force. At the heart of the holiday is a traditional military parade chaired by Modi.
The unions had received permits for their tractor brigade to take place after the military parade. However, some tractors deviate from the convoy route agreed with the government and break through police barriers early.
There were clashes in which some farmers attacked empty buses erected as barricades. Police fired tear gas and water cannons, and hit farmers with lathis – bamboo sticks used by police in South Asia. Authorities temporarily cut off the internet in some parts of the capital.
At least one farmer has According to reports died.
Last week, the Indian government offered farmers a deal: an 18-month suspension of the three agricultural laws until a permanent compromise could be reached. But Unions refusedcall for permanent repeal of the law.
After dark on Tuesday, these unions canceled the tractor rally. The peasants came down from the walls of the Red Fort.
But they didn’t go home. They have only returned to their protest camps on the outskirts of Delhi – from where they are planning another march to the capital in less than a week.