Officers used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the thousands-strong crowd of farmers as they traveled on foot, by bus and tractor to the nation’s capital on Thursday to protest over three new agrarian bills.
Farmers fear that the legalization, passed in September by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, will end the purchase of grains at guaranteed prices and leave farmers vulnerable to market forces.
“If the government doesn’t want farmers to protest amid the corona pandemic why can’t the government say that it will defer the laws for six months or until the pandemic is over,” Jagmohan Singh, a farmer from Punjab, told Al Jazeera.
“We will not call off our protest unless the government scraps these anti-farmer laws.”
Police set up barricades on routes to Delhi, resulting in a standoff and clashes between law enforcement and the farmers.
The protesters hurled bricks and other items at the police positions and attempted to push the barricades aside.
Reports suggest that police eventually allowed the protesters to continue their march to the capital after a two-hour standoff.
Footage has emerged online of the confrontations between police and those marching, with some sources showing farmers equipped with swords and sticks.
Reports suggest that a number of the protest leaders were arrested, as requests to officially carry out the demonstration were rejected by the authorities.
This is by no means the first time that farmers in India have sought to express their grievances about the new legalization. Protests have taken place since September, with farmers frequently blocking roads and train tracks to cause disruption.
Modi’s government has defended the legislation, claiming it was necessary to get rid of the antiquated procurement procedures in the agriculture sector while giving farmers the chance to sell to new buyers and big international retailers.
The government also claims that the minimum support price for food staples, such as wheat and rice, would not be removed.
The protests are planned to continue on Friday.
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