India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that protesters storming the Red Fort in New Delhi had caused “insult” to the government, his first public statement on a month-long uprising by farmers that last week turned violent.
For more than two months, tens of thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of the city, protesting new agricultural laws they say favour private buyers at the detriment of producers.
On Tuesday’s Republic Day, a tractor parade turned aggressive when some protestors deviated from pre-agreed paths, clashing with police and breaking into the capital’s historic Red Fort complex. One has died and hundreds have been shot.
On the 26th of January in Delhi, the nation was saddened by the threat to the Tri-colour (Indian flag), Modi said in a Sunday radio address.
“The government is committed to agricultural modernization and is taking many steps in that direction, too.”
Farm leaders insist they were not responsible for the abuse that a minority of those at the parade sparked, and the government has left open the prospect of resuming negotiations between the two parties.
On Saturday, Modi told opposition party leaders that, according to a government report of the conference, an attempt to freeze the laws for 18 months still stands.
Agriculture employs around half of India’s labour force, and one of the major obstacles to Modi’s rule since he first came to power in 2014 is discontent among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers.