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Indian farmers, who protested new agricultural laws they believe threaten their livelihoods, began a sit-in near parliament in the capital on Thursday, renewing a bid to repeal the laws.
In the longest-running protest by growers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the major highways leading to New Delhi for more than seven months.
On Thursday, police in New Delhi escorted 200 farmers from protest spots on the outskirts to Jantar Mantar, a large Mughal-era observatory in a central area that also serves as a protest site.
“We are here to once again remind the government that anti-peasant laws must be rolled back to protect Indian agriculture and millions of poor farmers from a full-blown takeover by large corporations,” said Rakesh Tikait, a leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. , one of the largest group of farmers,
Security personnel stand guard at the site of a sit-in protest by farmers against agricultural laws, near the parliament building, in New Delhi, India, July 22, 2021. (Reuters)
Farmers complained that before they were allowed to gather at the central location, their ID cards were checked by the police, who have tightened security, erecting barricades and checkpoints to deter violence.
The protest follows a clash with police by thousands of angry farmers in late January after they drove tractors into security barriers. One protester was killed and more than 80 officers were injured across the city.
During the monsoon session of parliament, 200 farmers will go to Jantar Mantar every day to hold a farmers’ parliament to remind the government of our long-standing demand, said Balbir Singh Rajewal, another leader of the farmers.
Parliament will end its monsoon session in early August and farmers will be allowed to gather until August 9.
In parliament, key opposition leaders such as Rahul Gandhi and Harsimrat Kaur Badal called on the government to address farmers’ concerns and roll back the three controversial laws.
Many senior members of Gandhi’s Congress party, the main opposition group, gathered on the parliament grounds, carrying placards saying Save the Land, Save the Farmers and shouting messages of support.
The agricultural laws introduced in September 2020 will help boost farmers’ incomes, and the government was ready to talk to the farmers, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters in parliament.
However, farmers say the new laws favor large private retailers by giving them the freedom to purchase agricultural products outside of government-regulated wholesale grain markets.
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