GHAZIABAD, India: Indian farmers burned a copy of the government’s new agricultural law on Wednesday. Although the Supreme Court decided to postpone its implementation when it heard their grievances, they continued to protest the reforms.
Thousands of farmers have set up camps on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi for nearly two months, protesting what they say is a law designed to benefit large private buyers at the expense of growers.
The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi denies this, saying the legislation is required to reform an agricultural sector beset by waste.
At several protest sites on Wednesday, farmers threw copies of the three new laws on bonfires lit for the Hindu Lohri mid-winter festival.
“These laws are not in farmers’ interests,” said Gursevak Singh, 32, one of the protesters involved in the burning at a protest site in Ghaziabad, a satellite city of New Delhi.
“We want the government to use their brains and repeal these laws.”
Unrest among India’s estimated 150 million farmers represents one of the biggest challenges to Modi’s rule since his Bharatiya Janata Party won a second term in power in 2019.
One of the BJP’s coalition partners resigned when the laws were first introduced in September, and the issue risks uniting India’s often-fractioned opposition.
India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of the laws while a four-member committee looks into the protesters’ grievances.
But the farm leaders refused to cooperate with the committee and said they would intensify the protests, including a Republican Day celebration in the capital later this month.
“We expect to mobilise up to two million farmers across the country on January 26,” Kulwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, one of the main farm unions, told Reuters.
Farmers have consistently called for the total repeal of the laws, though the government says there is “no question” of this happening.
Eight rounds of negotiations failed to break the deadlock. The next meeting of both parties is scheduled for Friday.