On Friday, clashes broke out between protesting Indian farmers and a group of men chanting anti-farmer and pro-police slogans, and at one of several protest sites outside the capital, New Delhi, authorities used tear gas and batons to break up the battle.
After thousands of farmers marched overnight to reinforce colleagues camping out on the outskirts of New Delhi, farmers’ leaders accused local police and politicians of instigating skirmishes at the northern site to turn sentiment against them.
The protesting farmers want the government to revoke three new farm laws that, for the benefit of big private produce buyers, they claim would harm their livelihoods.
Authorities attempted to clear a demonstration site in the city’s east on Thursday night in a stand-off between riot police and farmers, but most farmers declined to leave and significant numbers joined them.
Their representatives said that defeat would constitute any withdrawal.
“Rakesh Tikait, president of one of the largest farmers’ unions, the Bharti Kisan Union, told Reuters on Friday, “Concerned about police high-handedness, thousands of farmers who were not part of the protest have now come to bolster our campaign.
In September, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched new agricultural rules, causing a surge of demonstrations and sit-ins on some of the key approaches to New Delhi.
The laws are an attempt to erode a long-standing system that assures farmers a minimum support price for their rice and wheat, farm leaders argue.
The government says the changes will open up new possibilities for farmers and it says it won’t yield to the demands of the demonstrators.
While the demonstrations are starting to disrupt some support for the government in the countryside, Modi maintains a large majority in parliament.
On Tuesday, when India celebrated its Republic Day with a military parade, the demonstrations turned violent when some demonstrators broke away from a tractor procession to bust through barricades and clash with police.