Man dies as clashes erupt between police and protesting farmers in India

21 February 2024, 14:34

Indian farmers who have been protesting for a week to demand guaranteed crop prices wait to march to New Delhi (Altaf Qadri/AP)
India Farmer Protests. Picture: PA

The farmers began their protest last week but were stopped before they reached New Delhi.

A protester has died as thousands of Indian farmers resumed their march to New Delhi after talks with the government failed to end an impasse over their demands for guaranteed crop prices.

The farmers began their protest march last week but were stopped some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the capital as police fired rounds of teargas.

The 21-year-old farmer, identified as Subhkaran Singh, died from a head injury, medical superintendent HS Rekhi told the Press Trust of India (PTI).

He said two other people had been injured and were in stable condition.

Mr Singh died after clashes between security forces and farmers erupted in Khanauri, a town in the state of Punjab, reported PTI.

Haryana police in a post on X, formerly Twitter, said 12 officers were injured after protesters attacked them with sticks and pelted them with stones.

The post added that protesters used chili powder to set stubble on fire, making it difficult for officers to breathe.

The farmers are demanding legislation guaranteeing minimum prices for 23 crops, loan wavers and the doubling of the money they can make.

The protests come at a crucial time for India, where national elections are due in the coming months and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is widely expected to secure a third successive term in office.

India Farmer Protests
The protesting farmers began their march last week, but their efforts to reach New Delhi were blocked by authorities (Altaf Qadri/AP)

Authorities are set on containing the protest, which has renewed the movement from over two years ago when tens of thousands of farmers camped out on the outskirts of the city for over a year.

At the time, the farmers pitched tents, bought food supplies and held out in the sit-in until they forced Mr Modi to repeal new agriculture laws in a major reversal for his government.

On Wednesday, authorities barricaded the highways into New Delhi with cement blocks, metal containers, barbed wire and iron spikes to prevent the farmers from entering.

The farmers arrived at the barricades with bulldozers and excavators to try and push through.

Jagjit Singh Dallewal, one of the farmers leading the march, said they did not want any violence, but condemned the government over massive security measures.

“It is our request that we want to go to Delhi in a peaceful manner. The government should remove the barricades,” he said.

Protesting farmers run away from tear gas shells used by the police near Shambhu border, India (Altaf Qadri/AP)
Protesting farmers run away from tear gas shells used by the police near Shambhu border, India (Altaf Qadri/AP)

Last week, the farmers had paused their protest and hunkered down near the town of Shambhu, close to the border between Punjab and Haryana states, as farmers unions engaged in discussions with government ministers.

They rejected a proposal from the government that offered them five-year contracts of guaranteed prices on a set of certain crops, including maize, grain legumes and cotton, before the farmers resumed their march on Wednesday.

The protest organisers say the farmers are seeking a new legislation that would guarantee minimum prices for 23 crops.

The government protects agricultural producers against sharp falls in farm prices by setting a minimum purchase price for certain essential crops, a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help shore up food reserves and prevent shortages.

The system can apply up to 23 crops, but the government usually offers the minimum price only for rice and wheat.

The farmers say guaranteed minimum support price for all 23 crops would stabilise their income.

They are also pressing the government to follow through on promises to waive loans and withdraw legal cases brought against them during the earlier 2021 protests.

Several talks so far have failed to break the deadlock.

By Press Association

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