Indian farmers observed a one-day hunger strike on Saturday in protest against agricultural laws “to show that they are peaceful.”
The hunger strike, which coincides with the death anniversary of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, would prove that the protesters are overwhelmingly peaceful, said Darshan Pal, a leader of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha group of farm unions.
He said “the farmers’ movement was peaceful and will be peaceful.”
The hunger strike on January 30 “will be organised to spread the values of truth and non-violence inculcated by Mahatma Gandhi.”
The farmers are on a general strike and camping outside the capital since November 26 against the three farm laws they term as benefiting large private buyers at the expense of farmers. The protesting farmers have been clashing with police since January 26 Republic Day invasion of capital New Delhi that left one dead and hundreds injured.
Clashes between protesters, police and groups shouting anti-farmer slogans have broken out on a number of occasions since then.
Unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers is one of the biggest challenges to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Eleven rounds of talks between farm unions and the government have failed to break the deadlock. The government has offered to put the laws on hold for 18 months, but farmers say they will not end their protests for anything less than a full repeal.
Meanwhile, on Friday opponents and supporters of the farmers’ protest clashed.
A farmer was seen brandishing a sword during the protest. One police officer sustained injuries during scuffle with him. Police fired tear gas and baton charged to separate the two groups.
According to eye witnesses masked men, shouting “shoot the traitors”, breached police barricade and charged the farmers.
Earlier, authorities cut power and water to one protest camp at Ghazipur, but hundreds more farmers arrived overnight on tractors to join the protesters.