Farmers block roads across India in protest of agriculture law

On Saturday, thousands of farmers blocked main roads across India for hours to press for the repeal of India’s new agricultural laws.

Protesters used tractors, lorries and boulders to block the roads. Condemning the laws, they held banners and flags, saying they would be left at the mercy of the poor and corporations.

“We will fight till our last breath,” said Jhajan Singh, an 80-year-old farmer at a protest site in Ghazipur. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should “know whether he will stay or we will stay.”

Authorities deployed thousands of security forces, especially outside Delhi, where farmers have been camping at three key locations for more than two months. Farmers have said they will not give up until the government repeals the laws.

Saturday’s blockade began at noon and lasted for three hours. No violence was immediately reported.

Numerous talks between farmers and the government have failed to make any progress. The government has said that laws are needed to modernize Indian agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, while defending the laws in Parliament on Friday, dashed hopes of an immediate solution and did not offer to resume talks with farmers.

On January 26, Republic Day of India, the protest turned violent when a tractor driven by farmers derailed and stormed the 17th-century Red Fort. Hundreds of police officers were injured, as were many farmers. One protester was killed.

Farmer leaders condemned the violence but said they would not end the protests.

Authorities have since stepped up security at protest sites outside Delhi, adding iron barriers and steel barriers to prevent farmers from entering the capital.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on authorities and protesters to exercise maximum restraint.

“Peaceful assemblies and the right to freedom of expression must be protected both offline and online. It is imperative for all to find equal solutions with due respect for human rights,” he tweeted late on Friday I said.

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