New Delhi, Jan 26 (efe-epa).- A massive farmers’ march in New Delhi turned chaotic as protesters broke barricades and tried to deviate from the designated route forcing police to use tear gas water cannons.
All this transpired at the same time as a parade to mark India’s 72nd Republic Day was underway in the capital.
Despite a call by the organizers urging farmers to hold a peaceful march and stick to the route designated by police, groups of protesters early Tuesday used tractors and excavators to remove concrete barricades or vehicles trying to block their way while riot police used tear gas and water cannons on them.
“Too much of democracy?” one of the leaders of the protests, Yogendra Yadav, wrote on Twitter alongside a video showing the police in action.
The march seeks to pressure the Indian government to revoke what they describe as three “anti-farmer” laws liberalizing the agrarian sector. The organizers expected it to be attended by “more than 250,000 tractors and vehicles and more than one million farmers.”
The route authorized by police was mainly along the outskirts of capital but the protesters deviated into other parts of the city including ITO in central Delhi, where clashes broke out between the riot police and protesters with both sides using violence.
On Monday, the organizers of the march circulated a statement urging protesters to show exemplary behavior during the protest so that the “historical” parade is not “stained,” with the whole world’s eyes on the farmers and their demands.
“Our victory lies in the parade being taken out in a very peaceful manner, without any untoward incidents taking place. Remember that our aim is not to conquer Delhi, but to win over the hearts of the people of this country,” the statement insisted.
The main march in Delhi will be supported by thousands of demonstrations across India.
After two months of sit-in protests and blockades of various entry points to New Delhi, the farmers have stepped up pressure against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the revocation of three farm laws that liberalize both sales prices and quantities of certain crops.
The laws seek to open up trade in agriculture to the free market, and allegedly abolish government-mandated minimum selling prices with time, leaving farmers to negotiate prices of their produce with private firms in the distribution chain.
The government – which unsuccessfully proposed an 18-months moratorium on the laws during talks with the farmers – has defended the reforms claiming that they would allow farmers to negotiate on their own terms, but the peasants’ groups have claimed that they will be left helpless and at the mercy of large firms. EFE-EPA