The massive rally by Indian farmers took a surprising turn as protesters stormed the Red Fort in New Delhi, hoisting the Khalsa flag over the 17th century monument, invoking paramount outrage nationwide. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a united front of over 40 million farmers’ unions in India has already condemned this act, albeit without direct reference.
“Despite all our efforts, some orgs & individuals violated route & indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We’ve always held that peace is our biggest strength and any violation would hurt the movement: Samyukta Kisan Morcha,” read a tweet by ANP, a news organisation.
Thousands of Indian farmers began pouring into the capital on Republic Day, in an attempt to revert Prime Minister Modi’s new farm laws. Today marks over 60 days of the ongoing protests, as farmers mobilize their tractors to revolt against the government’s deregulations plans.
Chaos engulfed New Delhi with thousands of farmers being tear gassed and baton-charged as they broke down police barricades amid India’s Republic Day celebrations.
Farmer unions have held eleven rounds of talks with the central government so far, but all have been futile. Modi’s administration had previously offered to temporarily suspend the new laws but the farmers state they will settle for nothing short of complete revocation.
Sanyukta Kisan Marcha (SKM) revealed that they were expecting close to 200,000 tractors.
“We are about to make history. Never before in history have the people of this Republic been part of a parade of this nature on the Republic Day.”
The new agricultural laws introduced in September by the Indian federal government have been hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “complete transformation of the agriculture sector” that would empower “tens of millions of farmers.” However, the laws could cause the government to stop buying grain from farmers at guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations would buy from the farmers at cheaper prices.
This move has been seen by many as another attempt by the Modi government to upend the rights of minority groups. According to one social media analysis, the new legislation would encourage the consolidation of land into mega-farms and destroy the business of Punjabi Sikh small land holders, forcing them to lose ownership of lands. This could lead to a change in the demographic makeup of the farming lands in Punjab.
This is similar to the effects of the new land ownership laws introduced in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which allow non-residents of Kashmir to own property in the Muslim-majority region.
The new agricultural legislation, while framed as pro-farmers by the government, is being viewed as anti-farmers and pro-corporations by farmer unions as well as members of the Congress, the opposition party.
Agriculture support more than half of India’s 1.3 billion population, and farmers in India frequently protest the suppression of their rights, and demand better crop prices, loan waivers, and effective irrigation systems.
The protesters in New Delhi maintain that they will not cease their movement until the government agrees to roll back the new agricultural laws.