More than 100,000 Indian farmers held a protest rally in the city of Barnala in Punjab on Sunday in a show of strength against new farm laws, where union leaders called on supporters to amass outside the capital New Delhi on February 27.
Tens of thousands of Indian growers have been camping outside Delhi for nearly three months, demanding the repeal of the three laws that they say will benefit large corporations at their cost.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which introduced the laws last September, has offered to defer the laws but refused to abandon them, arguing that legislation will help farmers get better prices.
The government had several rounds of talks with farmers but failed to make any headway, and farmers’ unions have vowed to carry on the protests until the laws are rescinded.
At Sunday’s rally at a grain market in Barnala, farmers’ leaders outlined plans to mobilise farmers from across the Punjab and move to a protest site outside Delhi later this month.
“We came here to make Punjab’s farmers aware of the movement in Delhi. We came to tell them what’s happening there and what will happen next,” farmer leader Joginder Ugrahan said.
Thousands of women, along with men, began pouring in Barnala early on Sunday, riding in on buses, tractors, trailers and cars. According to police estimates, between 120,000 and 130,000 people attended that rally, tone of the largest rallies against the laws.
Baljinder Singh, a 52-year-old farmer, said he had travelled 30 kilometres to attend the rally. “Our objective is that the black laws enacted by the Modi government are repealed.”
The Modi government blamed opposition parties for attempting to prolong the agitation, but said it was open for further talks.