New Delhi – Tearing down the historic Red Fort, celebrated as Republic Day across the country on Tuesday, thousands of protesting farmers set up long queues of tractors in the capital of India, smashing police barricades, destroying tear gas.
He waved the Khet Sangha and religious flags, where the Prime Minister annually hoists the national flag to mark the country’s independence.
The deeply symbolic act of capturing the monument was shown live on hundreds of news channels. People were seen with shock in the realm of farmer protest, now it is seen as the biggest challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Thousands more farmers marched on foot or rode a horse, shouting slogans against Modi. In some places, they were bathed with flower petals by residents who registered a protest on their phones.
Police said that one of the protestors was killed when his tractor overturned, but farmers said he was shot. Television channels featured several blood protesters.
Farmer leaders said more than 10,000 tractors participated in the protest.
For nearly two months, farmers – many of them Sikhs from the states of Punjab and Haryana – have camped on the edge of the capital, blocking highways and linking it to an insurgency in the north of the country that has upset the government .
They are demanding the withdrawal of new laws that they say will commercialize agriculture and destroy earnings.
“We want to show our strength to Modi,” said Satpal Singh, a farmer who drove to the capital on a tractor with a family of five. “We will not surrender.”
The riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at several places to push back the rows of tractors. Authorities blocked roads in an attempt to prevent farmers from reaching the center of the capital. However, thousands managed to reach important sites.
The protesting farmer Manjit Singh said, “We will do as we wish. You cannot apply your laws to the poor.”
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Authorities closed some metro train stations and mobile Internet services were suspended in parts of the capital.
The government insists that the agricultural reform laws passed by Parliament in September will benefit farmers and boost production through private investment.
The farmers tried to march in New Delhi in November but were stopped by the police. Since then, troubled by the cold, they have sprung down to the edge of the city and threatened to surround it if farm laws are not repealed.
The government has offered to amend the laws and suspend their implementation for 18 months. But the farmers insist that they will compromise for nothing less than complete repeal.
Protests began on 26 January 1950 to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of India, in which Modi held a traditional parade, demonstrating the country’s military strength and cultural diversity, albeit due to the coronovirus epidemic.
Since returning to power for a second term, the Modi government has been shaken by a slew of attacks, including a flagging economy, broadening social divisions and a critical backlash.
Agriculture supports more than half of India’s 1.4 billion people. But in the last few decades, the economic dominance of the farmers has decreased. Having produced one-third of India’s GDP, farmers now account for only 15 percent of the country’s $ 2.9 trillion economy.