GHAZIABAD: On Wednesday, Indian farmers burned copies of the government’s latest agricultural rules, moving on with their agitation against the changes amid the Supreme Court’s decision to delay adoption until hearing their grievances.
For nearly two months, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital, demonstrating against what they claim are laws meant to favour big private buyers at the detriment of growers.
This is refuted by the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the legislation is needed to overhaul a waste-stricken agricultural sector.
On Wednesday, farmers threw copies of the three new bonfire laws that were lit for the Hindu Lohri midwinter festival at several protest sites.
“These laws are not in the interests of farmers,” said Gursevak Singh, 32, one of the protesters involved in the fire at a protest site in Ghaziabad, New Delhi’s satellite city.
Unrest among India’s projected 150 million farmers is one of the major obstacles to Modi’s rule since his Bharatiya Janata Party secured a second term in office in 2019. We want the government to use their brains and revoke these rules.
When the laws were first enforced in September, one of the BJP’s coalition allies resigned and the issue threatens uniting India’s often-fractioned opposition.
On Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court ordered a partial suspension of the laws as a four-member committee addresses the complaints of the demonstrators.
Yet farm leaders have declined to comply with the committee and warn they would step up their marches, particularly later this month around the capital’s Republic Day celebrations.
“On January 26, we expect to mobilise up to two million farmers across the country,” said Kulwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of one of the major farm unions, Jamhuri Kisan Sabha.
Farmers have repeatedly called for the complete abolition of the rules, but there is “no question” of this happening, the government says.
Eight rounds of talks were not successful in breaking the deadlock. Then, the two parties are due to meet on Friday.
The rural world of India is notoriously male-dominated, but thousands of women have become a backbone of demonstrations by farmers blocking roads to New Delhi that have become a major challenge for the government.
Women in all trades and ages are braving the icy winter temperatures in an effort to make the government withdraw market changes, from those who tend cattle or toil in the fields, to city professionals and grandmothers in wheelchairs.
“I fight for my children and my grandchildren,” said 40-year-old Parminder Kaur, who sings slogans at daytime protests, then helps prepare chapati flatbread and curry in the evening to feed the tens of thousands of demonstrators.
Women have historically been Indian agriculture’s invisible backbone, working the fields without the power that goes with it. Repeated experiments have demonstrated how poverty, sexism and domestic abuse lead them to suffer.