India’s farmer protests turn deadly; top court pushes for delay of reforms


The Indian farmers protest against the deregulation of the country’s agriculture sector has claimed a life of a protester who committed suicide “to express anger and pain against the government’s injustice”.

This came as the country’s Supreme Court urges the government to put the contentious farm laws on hold.

On Wednesday, Baba Ram Singh, a priest from a gurdwara in Haryana who joined the farmers’ protest a day before, died by suicide after he shot himself. In a note, he said he was sacrificing his life against the government’s injustice.

Farmers claim that other lives have been lost as they brave harsh winter conditions to continue what has effectively become a huge sit-in outside Delhi for 21 days, with one saying as many as 22 have succumbed to the cold.

Just after midnight on Tuesday another farmer, 67-year-old Gurmeet Singh from Mohali, died after falling ill at the Singhu border, which has become the epicentre of the giant protest.

And on the same night, two farmers Labh Singh and Gurpreet Singh were killed in a road accident and 9 others travelling with them were injured while they were on their way to Punjab from the protest site late at night.

Several rights groups have raised concerns for the health of the farmers who have been protesting at the border areas of Delhi camping with their tractors and cars in the open, as winter sets in and the temperature dropped to 5 degrees or less in the northern parts.

The protests that began with a standoff with security forces as the farmers tried entering the capital city have so far seen various levels of talks between the ministers and representatives of the protestors, however, no endpoint has been found.

Hearing a series of petitions on demands to remove farmers from the highway, India’s Supreme Court said it may set up an “impartial and independent” committee of agricultural experts and suggested that the government should not take any action to implement the law till the court takes a final decision on the issue.

“We acknowledge the right of farmers to protest but it has to be non-violent,” the bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said.

The protests have only been growing in numbers as the farmers continue to block more than half of the routes entering the capital city which borders three states. The most impact of the protest is seen on the western side which borders Haryana and Punjab, the state known as agri-hubs of India.

Farmer leaders say over two thousand women have also joined their protests. The first general strike called by the protestors reportedly involved over 25 million people joining in.

The protests centre around the contentious farm laws allowing private companies to buy agricultural produce directly from the farmers bypassing the government-run market system called Mandi.

Farmers accuse the bill favours corporates and snatches away the protections provided in the form of minimum support prices and other such metrics. (Source: Independent UK)