In a show of strength by Indian farmers against new farm laws, more than 100,000 have gathered in India’s northern Punjab state on Sunday.
Union leaders, ready to supplement the tens of thousands already camped on the outskirts of Delhi, called on supporters to gather outside the capital New Delhi on Feb. 27 to press their demand for the repeal of the three reform laws that they say will hurt them and benefit large corporations.
The farmers protest has gone on for three months now and have resulted in some deaths due to the cold, hunger and suicide.
They have also clashed with the police on a tractor march which turned violent, held on India’s Republic Day.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which introduced the laws last September, has offered to defer the laws but refused to abandon them, arguing that legislation will help farmers get better prices.
Both sides have met for several rounds of negotiations but failed to make any headway, and farmers’ unions have vowed to carry on the protests until the laws are rolled back.
At Sunday’s rally at a grain market in Barnala, a town in Punjab, union leaders outlined plans to mobilise farmers and farm workers from across the northern state and move to a protest site outside Delhi later this month.
“We came here to make Punjab’s farmers aware of the movement in Delhi. We came to tell them what’s happening there and what will happen next,” prominent farmer leader JoginderUgrahan told Reuters.
A sea of supporters, including tens of thousands of women, began gathering in Barnala early in the day, riding in on buses, tractors, trailers and cars.
Local police estimated a crowd of between 120,000 and 130,000 eventually gathered, comprising one of the largest rallies against the laws.
Baljinder Singh, a 52-year-old farmer, said he had travelled 30km to attend the rally. “Our objective is that the black laws enacted by the Modi government are repealed,” Singh said, tightly grasping a flag of a farmers’ union.
In New Delhi, a senior official from Modi’s ruling BharatiyaJanata Party blamed opposition parties for attempting to prolong the agitation but said the government was open for further talks. (Source: CNA)