Tensions High as Indian Farmers Protest New Laws

A hunger strike was planned for Saturday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 31, 2021 3:02 PM CST
Tensions High as Indian Farmers Protest New Laws
Farmers read local newspapers as they participate in a day-long hunger strike to protest against farm laws at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India.   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Indian farmers taking part in more than two months of protest against new agriculture laws began a daylong hunger strike Saturday, the AP reports, as they sought to reaffirm the peaceful nature of their movement following recent violent clashes with police. Farmer leaders said the hunger strike was timed to coincide with the death anniversary of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who was famed for his nonviolent resistance to colonial rule. Nevertheless, the protesters said they remained furious at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the edge of New Delhi since November, seeking the repeal of laws passed in September that they say will favor large agribusiness and corporations, devastate the earnings of many farmers, and leave those with small plots behind. Modi and his allies say the laws are necessary to modernize Indian agriculture.

Multiple rounds of talks between the two sides have been unsuccessful. The protests had largely been peaceful but violence erupted on Tuesday, India’s Republic Day, when tens of thousands of farmers knocked stormed New Delhi's 17th century Red Fort in a brief but shocking takeover. The clashes left one protester dead and nearly 400 police officers injured. Officials did not say how many farmers were injured, but many were seen bloodied after police in riot gear hit them with batons and fired tear gas. Tensions have remained high since, with sporadic clashes between protesters, police, and unidentified groups shouting anti-farmer slogans. On Saturday authorities blocked mobile internet services at three protest sites, a favored tactic of the Modi government to thwart protests. Officials said internet services would remain suspended until Sunday to “maintain public safety.” Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said the government was “in delusion if it feels our movement will be weakened” by suspending the internet.

(Read more India stories.)

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