Thousands of Indian peasants aboard hundreds of tractors mobilized this Thursday in a caravan to one of the entrances of New Delhi in what, they have said, is just a rehearsal of the “unprecedented march” that will try to enter the capital on January 26, Republic Day, to press for the repeal of three laws that open Indian agriculture to the free market.
About two thousand tractors took one of the main highways that connects the city, summoned by the peasant organizations for a new show of force after 42 days of protests Against the norms promoted by the Government and considered “anti-peasant,” Hannan Mollah, secretary general of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), one of the main organizations opposed to the reform, told Efe.
The six lanes of the highway were occupied by several thousand people in tractors or on foot, in the midst of a strong police deployment that guarded the entrance to the city.
The march, which began shortly before noon, ended peacefully three hours later, once the protesters reached the entrance of the capital.
“We have decided that, if an agreement is not reached with the Government, on the 26th, Republic Day (…) after the official parade ends, there will be (..) (another) of farmers and tractors,” he said. Mollah, who rated this as an “unprecedented” movement of the peasant sector, the first labor force in the country.
On the 26th, just as the peasants will spend two months of incessant protest camping on the outskirts of New Delhi, it will also be “the Kisan Republic Day parade (farmer, in Hindi)”.
Similar protests will take place in state capitals across the country.
According to Mollah, from today until January 28, the peasants will develop an agenda to intensify the protests before the unsuccessful negotiations with the Government.
This Thursday’s march precedes a new meeting of peasant leaders and representatives of the Government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, called for tomorrow, after seven failed rounds of negotiations.
“The Government is inhuman, inconsiderate of its citizens. They are only doing time because they are waiting for us to get tired and abandon the protest (…) but the peasants are determined to die for this, ”he said.
Although the authorities have said they are willing to review the content of the laws, Mollah reiterated today that the only thing acceptable to the union is the repeal.
The three laws that unleashed peasant anger liberalize both the selling prices and the quantity sold of certain crops, so now farmers will have to negotiate prices with companies within the distribution chain.
The government has defended the reform, assuring that this will allow the farmer to negotiate on his own terms, but the peasants consider that the law leaves them helpless and in the hands of large companies.