New Delhi, Dec 17 (efe-epa).- The Supreme Court of India on Thursday refused to order the end of protests being held by thousands of farmers for more than 20 days on the outskirts of New Delhi, demanding the revocation of three recent laws that liberalize the agriculture sector.
The top court said that the farmers could continue their protests in a non-violent manner and the police should avoid using force against them, rejecting a petition by the attorney general against the weeks-long blockade of multiple roads to the capital by the protesters.
“Purpose of protest can be achieved only if people talk to each other. If the protest has a purpose other than the protest, we wish to facilitate that,” Chief Justice SA Bobde said during the hearing.
The court has also offered to form an expert committee to mediate in seeking an agreement between the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the farmers, after multiple rounds of negotiations have failed between the two sides.
“We are proposing an independent impartial committee before whom both the parties can state their case while the protest goes on and that the committee will give its opinion, which we expect the parties to follow,” the court said.
The top court warned that without a resolution, the protest could turn into a “national problem.”
The judge said that the court would not interfere with the right to protest, but insisted that the demonstration’s purpose can only be achieved through discussions.
“You cannot sit in protest for years,” he said.
The farmers on Thursday completed 22 days of their sit-in on some of the major access roads to the capital – even as the night temperatures have plummeted below 10 degrees celsius – and have refused to back off unless the “anti-farmer” laws are completely withdrawn.
The three laws controversial laws seek to deregulate prices and quantity sold of certain commodities deemed essential.
They also permit and facilitate contract farming and allow private markets to function outside the physical boundaries of the government-regulated wholesale farm markets.
Peasants fear that the Modi government’s policies would corporatize Indian agriculture, help large agribusinesses and end state-control over farm markets.
However, the government has defended the reforms as necessary and in favor of farmers, arguing that the producers would be able to negotiate on their own terms. EFE-EPA