India’s farmers back at protest camps

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New Delhi

The Indian capital turned into a militarised zone on Wednesday with a heavy presence of police and other law enforcement agencies, a day after violent clashes with protesting farmers who stormed New Delhi’s Red Fort and hoisted Sikhism’s, the Nishan Sahib.
The violence marked a dramatic escalation in a standoff between the government and thousands of farmers camped out on the outskirts of the city since late November.
The farmers, mostly from northern Indian states including Punjab, want new agricultural reforms scrapped that they fear will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
As night fell, the farmers retreated to the camps outside the city where they have been braving Delhi’s chilly winter nights since late November.

Home Minister Amit Shah ordered 15 companies of paramilitaries to boost security forces in the capital, according to media reports. On Wednesday morning a number of major roads were blocked by police and security forces set up barricades, leading to major traffic congestion. Riot police were stationed near the Red Fort.Ten rounds of talks between farm unions and ministers have failed to break the deadlock.

Singh, a “Nihang” Sikh warrior wearing an electric-blue robe and a foot-high turban, had a clear message for the government.“We’re ready to die. This government has been ignoring us for long but they can no longer do that,” Singh told AFP at the 400-year-old fort.

Majid Ali, 55, who lives near the Red Fort said he was appaled by what happened at the landmark but backs the farmers. “I’ve never seen this much security in my life… If the farmers don’t fight for their rights and lives, how will we eat? I am with the farmers,” Ali told AFP.

Tens of thousands of farmers who stormed the historic Red Fort on India’s Republic Day were again camped outside the capital on Wednesday after the most volatile day of their two-month standoff left one protester dead and more than 80 police officers injured.
The protests demanding the repeal of new agricultural laws have grown into a rebellion that is rattling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

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