Thousands of Indian farmers block railroads to protest agrarian reforms
New Delhi, Feb 18 (efe-epa).- Thousands of Indian farmers on Thursday blocked railway lines in different parts of the country to protest against three laws liberalizing the agriculture sector, giving fresh momentum to protests which have continued for months in the form of blockades on major entry points to capital New Delhi.
The peaceful protest, which continued for four hours and was joined by around 300,000 farmers, was carried out in nearly a thousand stations across 22 states of India according to Avik Saha, the general secretary of the All India Farmers’ Struggle Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), one of the organizers.
“We wanted to send a message to the Government that this protest is continuing because it is denied that the protest exists. So we wanted to show that no, it is (still) there,” Saha told EFE.
At some spots of the protest, named “rail-roko” (halt the trains), the farmers distributed water and snacks to passengers of the trains which had been stopped, due to the inconveniences they might have faced.
Although no disturbances were reported, more than two dozen trains had to be diverted from their routes, Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar told EFE.
In a statement issued after the protests, Saha said the government “believes that it can discredit the farmers’ movement, the leadership of the movement and can progressively wear it out.”
“The government wants to project itself as reasonable and farmers as unreasonable and basically wants to say that the farmers are not united and therefore, the Government cannot negotiate,” he added.
The leader also criticized the government’s crackdown against supporters of the farmers’ movement on social media.
A couple of weeks ago, the Indian government lashed out against a number of celebrities, such as singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg, for tweeting in support of the farmers, before arresting young Indian environmentalist Disha Ravi on Saturday.
Ravi’s lawyers on Thursday approached the Delhi High Court to prevent the capital’s police – which had arrested the 21-year-old from the southern city of Bangalore – from leaking material linked to the investigation and her private conversations, local news broadcasters reported.
The farmers have been protesting against legal reforms that could result in them 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