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India’s farmers adamant they will continue fight for minimum crop prices

Farmers in India have gathered at the border between the northern states of Haryana and Punjab to protest what they see as the government's lack of action to resolve their key demands, especially guaranteed minimum crop prices and a doubling of their incomes.

Police have repeatedly used tear gas to push crowd of protesting farmers back

Farmers sit protesting. They are holding yellow and green flags.

With a small group gathered around him Thursday on a mat thrown hastily on the ground, Gurmeet Singh shook his head in disgust at how authorities were blocking him and other protesting farmers from advancing on India's capital.

"They are trying everything to weaken our protest," said Singh, 47, a farmer from the northern Indian state of Haryana.

"We arrived unarmed, carrying only flags, yet the government's response has been so aggressive," Sukvinder Singh, another farmer, added.

A few metres from where Gurmeet Singh sat, at the edge of the border between Haryana and Punjab, two states whose land is primarily devoted to agriculture, hundreds of other farmers congregated and pressed against the long wire that authorities had set up to prevent them from making it the remaining 200 kilometres to Delhi.

Although they have decided to postpone their march to Delhi, the tens of thousands of farmers at the border have vowed to stay at their camp until the government agrees to their demands — the key one being guaranteed minimum crop prices.

Facing them were rows of riot police and paramilitary troops carrying rifles and standing atop large concrete barriers ringed with razor wire.

A farmer poses for a photo amid a crowd of fellow protesting farmers.

On Friday, tear-gas canisters rippled through the crowd of assembled farmers for a third day, when some of the farmers advanced beyond the wire.

Earlier in the week, police deployed drones to drop tear-gas grenades on the demonstrators, until the farmers countered by using kites flown high in the sky, which have strings that are capable of interfering with the machines and disabling them.

The protesters decided to postpone their march to Delhi as talks continue between government officials and the farmers union leaders, with another round scheduled for Sunday. But a deep sense of frustration remained at the makeshift border camp, which is becoming more entrenched with every passing day. There's also defiance.

"We are determined to overcome all barricades," Gurmeet Singh said. "We remain steadfast."

The gathering at the border, which began earlier this week, quickly settled into a makeshift camp, with truck beds set up to hand out warm chai and food, as well as tents draped over tractors so the farmers can take shelter.

WATCH | A 4th day of protest:

Indian farmers' march on Delhi blocked for 4th day

8 hours ago

Duration 2:07

Thousands of India’s farmers continue their protest some 200 kilometres outside New Delhi, having been blocked from moving closer to the capital for the last four days. They are demanding a guaranteed price for crops after they say they were promised one during previous protests.

Echoes of a previous protest

It's eerily reminiscent of the massive widescale protest that engulfed India in late 2020, when tens of thousands of farmers settled into camps along the border of Delhi for nearly a year, demanding the government withdraw three controversial agricultural reform laws. The protesters endured bitter winter weather and suffered dozens of deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The farmers won that months-long battle when, in a rare move, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government backed down and scrapped the proposed laws.

WATCH | Indian farmers protest for nearly a year:

On the scene at the farmers’ protest in India

1 day ago

Duration 1:27

Tens of thousands of farmers in India are attempting to march to the country’s capital, New Delhi, to demand guaranteed crop prices. They’ve been stopped at the border between the Punjab and Haryana provinces by police, who have used tear gas and detained some protesters who tried to break barricades. CBC’s Salimah Shivji reports from the protest.

Anger mounts toward Modi government

But the farmers unions leading the current march said that since then, despite promises, the government hasn't moved quickly enough to resolve key demands such as guaranteed minimum crop prices, a doubling of farmers' income and loan waivers.

"This government is all talk, and it's full of liars," Gurmeet Singh said. "Our demands are not outlandish."

The request for legislation that will guarantee minimum support prices is at the heart of the recent protests.

WATCH | Farmers stand off with police in India:

Indian farmers continue protests until agricultural laws officially repealed

2 years ago

Duration 2:30

A full year after India’s farmers started camping out on the outskirts of Delhi in the biggest and most sustained challenge to the government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to repeal three controversial laws affecting the agricultural industry. But farmers say they’ll continue to protest until the laws are officially repealed.

"The life of a farmer in India is very difficult," said Dharamvir Dhindsa, 44, who farms in Haryana, close to where the camp of protesters has set up. "Most farmers are in debt and cannot afford the basic amenities to live."

A protester runs from tear gas from police. A crowd of fellow protesters are gathered behind.

Many of the farmers said they are incensed at India's prime minister for not listening to their demands, as they provide the country with much-needed labour and crops.

"In my 63 years of life, I have never witnessed a government like this before," said Manjinder Kaur, standing with a group of other female farmers. Kaur called the stifling of a democratic protest "troubling."

Protesting farmers pose for the camera.

Authorities also blocked internet service in several districts in Haryana as the protest entered its fourth day.

Kaur said the government needs to fully listen to her plight as a farmer on a small plot of land in Punjab, considered India's breadbasket because of its fertile land.

The minimum support price for crops "is crucial for us small farmers," she said. "Without government oversight, we worry we won't receive fair prices for our hard-earned produce."

Indian authorities are determined to keep the farmers from getting near the capital. It's a show of force against one of the country's largest voter blocs, with India's general election just a few months away.

Farmers standing in the foreground throw tear gas back at police in the background.

The fight continues

The threat of the farmers' protest movement growing could pose a significant challenge for Modi, who's aiming for a third term.

Intense talks between the Modi government and farmers union leaders went late into the night on Thursday, with promises to continue negotiations on the weekend.

Still, the farmers don't intend to move from their new camp until they receive guarantees from the government that their demands will be met.

"[We farmers] have one intention," said Dhindsa. "To move towards the capital of this country and to ask the question of the prime minister and the central government," he said.

"Why have they not fulfilled their promises? Why are they ignoring the farmers of this country?"

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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