New Delhi: Indian farmers gathered on Saturday to block a six-lane highway outside New Delhi to commemorate the 100th day of protests against the deregulation of the agricultural market, which was imposed on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi Pressure.
Young people and old people traveled to the highway by cars, trucks and tractors. After five hours of roadblocks, they opposed the three farm laws enacted in September 2020. They said that opening up the agricultural sector to private companies hurt them.
Modi has called the laws much-needed reforms for the country’s vast and antiquated agriculture sector, and painted the protests as politically motivated.
“The Modi government has turned this protest movement into an ego issue. They are unable to see the pain of the farmers,” said Amarjeet Singh, a 68-year-old farmer from Punjab state. “They have left us no option but to protest.”
Tens of thousands of farmers from several north Indian states have been camped out on the outskirts of the capital in bitter cold since December demanding that the laws be repealed.
Their movement has gained international attention and support, including from celebrities such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and U.S. singer Rihanna, but several rounds of negotiations between farmer leaders and the government have failed.
The Modi government slammed the protesters and was accused by rights activists of taking harsh measures to curb the protests.
Although the protests were basically peaceful, a series of violent incidents that took place on January 26 resulted in the death of a protester. The police have filed criminal proceedings against eight journalists, accusing them of false reports in the events that occurred that day.
“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement last month.
As the capital braces for harsh summers and the harvesting season begins, farmers gathering on Saturday said they had no plans to turn back until their demands were met.
“Bitter cold didn’t affect our movement, and neither will deathly heat,” said Raja Singh, a 58-year-old farmer from Punjab state.