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Tractor rally: Protesting farmers baton-charged, tear gassed on Republic Day

NEW DELHI: Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades and clashed on Tuesday with police in the capital on Republic Day, who fired tear gas to restrain them, shortly after a convoy of tractors trundled through the city’s outskirts.

Growers, angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, have camped outside New Delhi for almost two months, posing one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.

Local news channels showed images of the farmers hoisting flags at the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Image: ANI

They commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down road blocks miles from routes approved by the police, forcing constables in riot gear to fall back and let them pass, Reuters witnesses said.

Responding to reports of the clash, protest organiser Samyukt Kisan Morcha said only one of its parades had deviated from pre-arranged routes.

“Except for one group…our news is that all parades are happening on the pre-decided routes along with police,” the grouping of farm unions said in a statement.

tractor rally farmers protests new delhi republic day

According to Indian media reports, the protesting farmers knocked down barricades at New Delhi’s borders during their tractor rally against the new agriculture laws and clashed with police forces after entering the capital on Republic Day.

Indian police officials charged batons and fired tear gas shells to disperse the protestors of the ‘Kisaan Parade’.

 

The reports said that the authorities had given permission to the farmers to take out tractor rally in New Delhi after the conclusion of annual parade at Rajpath, however, the protestors crowded at the capital’s borders before the commencement of the parade at around 8 am local time.

Read: Farmers mass in Indian capital ahead of Republic Day protests

The farmers were seen breaching the barriers at the Singhu border which divides Delhi and Haryana and has been the epicentre of protests against the agriculture laws.

tractor rally farmers protests new delhi republic day

Earlier, tens of thousands of bearded and turbanned farmers, many bundled against the winter cold, began the day by driving a convoy of tractors festooned with the Indian tricolour and the flags of their unions through the city fringe.

tractor rally farmers protests new delhi republic day

Agriculture employs about half of India’s population of 1.3 billion, and unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers presents one of the biggest challenges to the authority of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.

Nine rounds of talks between the government and the farmers’ unions have failed to end the protests, with farm leaders rejecting the government’s offer to delay the laws for 18 months, as they push for repeal.

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