New Delhi, Sep 27 (BNA): Thousands of Indian farmers cut off traffic on major roads and railways outside the capital on Monday, marking a year of demonstrations against government-backed laws that they say will wreck their livelihoods.
The farmers renewed their protests with calls for a nationwide strike to mark the passage of the legislation. The prolonged demonstrations have posed one of the biggest political challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept the polls for the second time in 2019, according to the Associated Press.
Hundreds of farmers gathered on Monday at a protest site on the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi, waving colorful flags and distributing free food.
“The enthusiasm we had on day one, is much stronger and bigger now,” said Manjit Singh, a 45-year-old farmer and protester.
Mohini Kaur, 61, from New Delhi, traveled to the protest site to show her support for the farmers.
“These Lionhearted Cultivators are here today under the scorching sun. They have been exposed to rain, heat, and cold.
The protesters were determined to keep the movement going – some even brought mattresses with them, and camped outside as the day went on.
Along the southwestern and eastern fringes of New Delhi, farmers protested on busy highways, choking traffic and cutting off access from the capital to neighboring states. Police were deployed to three major protest sites on the outskirts of the city to maintain law and order.
A coalition of farmers’ unions – known as Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Farmers United Front – called on shops, offices, factories and other institutions to close in solidarity with the 10-hour strike. However, the calls to strike appeared to be largely unanswered, as most businesses continued business as usual across the capital.
The government defended the legislation, saying it was necessary to modernize agriculture and that the laws would boost production through private investment. But farmers say the new legislation will destroy their profits by ending guaranteed pricing and forcing them to sell their crops to companies at cheaper rates.
In the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana – the two largest agricultural producers in the country – thousands of protesters blocked highways, bringing traffic to a standstill in some areas.
In the eastern state of Bihar, trains stopped as farmers sat on the railway tracks. Demonstrators also took to the streets, burning tires and blocking roads across the area. Police said about 500 protesters had been arrested, but added that the closure remained peaceful.
In the southern city of Bengaluru on Monday, hundreds of people demonstrated in support of the anti-government protest. In the southern state of Kerala, local media reported that the ruling Left Democratic Front called for a complete lockdown.
A number of talks between the government and farmers failed to resolve the problem.
In November, farmers ramped up their movement by being on the outskirts of New Delhi, camping for nearly a year, surviving a harsh winter as well as the spread of the coronavirus that devastated India earlier this year.