Conflicts & War

Tension mounts after clashes at Indian farmers’ protest sites in Delhi

New Delhi, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- The Indian farmers’ protest sites against agrarian reforms in New Delhi remained tense on Friday after clashes between a group of counter-protesters, the farmers and the police, in which at least one police officer was seriously injured.

A number of farmers’ leaders accused radical right-wing groups close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party of carrying out the violence to try and discredit the protesters, while the government alleged that the opposition was stoking the peasants’ protests to gain political mileage.

Violence was reported on Friday at Singhu, one of three entry points to Delhi where thousands of farmers have been camping for more than two months demanding the abolition of the three farm laws that liberalize the agriculture sector.

“Peace has been restored. Legal action is being initiated,” tweeted Delhi police, adding that one of its officers received “grievous injuries” on his hand after being attacked with a sword during the clashes.

According to security forces, local residents of the area had been protesting at the site against the interruption of basic services due to the farmers’ stir, apart from expressing their displeasure over the violence that took place during the farmers’ Republic Day tractor march.

Almost 400 police officers were injured and one protester was killed during clashes in the tractor rally.

Hannan Mollah, the general secretary of the All Indian Kisan Sabha (All Indian Farmers’ Front), blamed the government for planning the “attack” against the movement, which comes after similar incidents in the last three days at different protest sites.

He alleged that the protesters had received threats from Hindu extremist groups close to the government.

“The RSS (a hardline group linked to the BJP) is responsible for this, they are organizing attacks against farmers sponsored by the government. If the attacks continue it would unleash a civil war,” Mollah told EFE.

Meanwhile BJP leader and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on Friday accused opposition leader Rahul Gandhi – of the Indian National Congress party – of “inciting more violence” instead of appealing for peace.

Gandhi had said earlier that he was concerned about the violence and tension spreading across the country if the three farm laws were not withdrawn.

The attack on the farmers comes a day after indications that the protesters could be dispersed by force, with massive deployment of police and riot police at the various camp sites.

Anticipating the possibility of the protest being shut down amid threats from radical groups, on Thursday farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait broke into tears while addressing followers, leading to a wave of support that seemed to have prevented police action so far.

Farmers have been demanding the abolition of three recent laws that liberalize both prices and sales quantity of certain crops sold.

This could result in farmers having to negotiate prices with companies within the distribution chain, something that according to the protesting groups leaves them helpless in the face of large companies, as there are no safeguards from possible exploitation.

However, the government has defended the reforms by saying farmers will now be able to negotiate on their own terms. EFE-EPA


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