Indian farmers end yearlong protests and return home

Indian farmers end yearlong protests and return home

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New Delhi: On Saturday, thousands of elated Indian farmers cleared protest sites on the outskirts of the capital and began to return to their homes. This marked the end of their year-long protests against agricultural reforms, which were held by Prime Minister Narendre. The government led by Narendra Modi rarely retreats.

The farmers demolished their temporary residences at multiple protest locations and began to evacuate the long highway surrounding New Delhi, where they have been camping since November last year. Hundreds of people waved green and white flags and danced to celebrate their victory as they rode in tractors, jeeps and cars.

“Farmers have saved the democracy. It was a fight for justice,” said farmer Nagendra Singh.

After a year of insisting that the new measures would benefit farmers, Modi made a surprise announcement to withdraw them last month. A bill to repeal the laws was officially passed in Parliament on Nov. 30. But the farmers did not immediately vacate the protest sites and said they would continue to demonstrate until the government agreed to other demands, including guaranteed prices for key crops and the withdrawal of criminal cases against protesters.

On Thursday, the government formed a committee to consider these requests.

The Modi government insists that these laws are necessary reforms for the modernization of India’s agriculture, which will lead to market deregulation and the private sector to have more control over agriculture.

Farmers say that these laws will greatly reduce their incomes and allow them to be at the mercy of big companies. In protest, they demanded the complete abolition of these laws.

They also asked the government to guarantee the prices of certain essential crops such as wheat and rice. Currently, the vast majority of farmers only sell their products to the government-approved market at a fixed price.

Farmers are one of the most influential voting groups in India, and Modi decided to abolish these laws before holding elections in key states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab at the beginning of next year. Both states are important agricultural producers, and his The Bharatiya Janata Party is also eager for support.

Political analysts say that the upcoming elections are one of the main reasons behind this unexpected move, but it is too early to say whether it will work.

“Modi apologized to farmers but only after resorting to dictatorship. We were called terrorists. He bowed to protests because of the upcoming elections,” said Jaigran, another farmer who uses just one name.

Initially, Modi’s government had tried to discredit the protestors — mostly Sikh farmers — by dismissing their concerns as motivated by religious nationalism. Some leaders in Modi’s party called them “Khalistanis,” a reference to a movement for an independent Sikh homeland in India.

Such allegations backfired, further angering the farmers and their supporters.

The protests drew international support and were the biggest challenge Modi’s government faced since coming to power in 2014.

They were largely peaceful but violence erupted on Jan. 26 when thousands of farmers briefly took over New Delhi’s historic Red Fort in a deeply symbolic move. At least one farmer died and a number of protesters and police were injured.

Farmer leaders stated that since November last year, more than 500 protesters have died due to suicide, cold weather and COVID-19. They insist that the government should pay each family 500,000 rupees (6,750 US dollars) in compensation. But the government said it has no figures on the number of deaths during the campaign.

Leaders said they will review the measures taken by the government next month and decide on future course of action.

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