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India

Church leaders slam violence at Indian farmers' rally

Republic Day clash between police and farmers results in the death of one farmer and more than 80 injuries

Church leaders slam violence at Indian farmers' rally

Farmers who have been protesting on the outskirts of the national capital for the last two months say the new laws are anti-farmer. (Photo supplied)

Church and political leaders in India have condemned a clash between police and farmers that resulted in the death of one farmer and injuries to more than 80 others.

The farmers' rally in New Delhi on India's 72nd Republic Day on Jan. 26 became out of control after the protesting farmers clashed with police near the Income Tax Office and Red Fort as police used baton charges and tear gas to disperse them.

“Our solidarity is with the protesting farmers and with the family of the man who lost his life during the protest march due to an accident. We support their demand for a repeal of farm land laws and stand with them,” Father Eugene Perera, secretary of the Indian bishops’ Office for Labor, told UCA News.

“It is very unfortunate that one farmer lost his life and many were injured, including police personnel, and we condemn the avoidable incident. Had the authorities been more alert, things would not have gone out of control.”

Farmers have been protesting against bills passed last September, claiming that the laws are anti-farmer and will harm the agricultural sector.

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Farmers who have been protesting on the outskirts of the national capital for the last two months say the new laws will deprive them of the minimum support prices that the government assured them for their produce.

The federal government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party claimed the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, are measures to reform the farm sector.

The laws permit the winding up of government-assisted marketing systems but will promote contract farming and multinational investment in the farming sector.

Police told media that the tractor rally started far ahead of the scheduled time when they entered the national capital, defying the agreement.

They claimed the protesters did not follow guidelines and entered the site from multiple fronts at Singhu, Gazipur and Tikri and some farmers armed with swords were also seen clashing with police.

As they reached the Income Tax Office intersection in central Delhi, the farmers tried to move toward the Red Fort and clashed with police, attacking them with sticks and iron rods.

The farmers also damaged several vehicles with their tractors. After reaching the Red Fort, the farmers entered the restricted area and unfurled their protest flag.

Meanwhile, Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson for the Bharatiya Kisan Union, has condemned the violence and flag hoisting and accused Delhi police of negligence.

The violence was condemned by several political parties. Congress party leader Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab, urged the farmers to go back to the borders.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, said she was "deeply disturbed" by the incident and blamed the federal government’s insensitive attitude toward farmers for the escalation and urged the government to repeal the laws.

"It is the responsibility of the federal government to note why the farmers who were protesting peacefully turned angry," said Sharad Pawar, former federal farmer minister.

More than 70 percent of India's 1.3 billion people directly or indirectly depend on farming for their sustenance. Some 80 percent of them — over 700 million — are marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land.

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