What's wrong with the Congress Party
As is so often the case when a conflict gets out of hand, it is no longer so easy to say who started what and when. On Tuesday, the Indian farmers, who have been protesting against the government's new agricultural laws for months, went to the capital with tractors and horses to demonstrate peacefully for their cause as part of the national holiday celebrations in Delhi. But instead of staying on the assigned route, some of them instead forcibly overcame the barricades of the Red Fort, a fortress from the time of the Mughals.
So while Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched soldiers line up in the military parade and jets flew over the heads of those in power, the police attacked the protesters with batons and tear gas, leaving many injured, especially among the police, and a dead farmer.
It is not the first death in this conflict that has dragged on since November. Three new laws should ensure that the prices for agricultural products can be negotiated freely, previously the state had regulated as a sort of middleman. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has good reasons to liberalize the market, because the regulations stem from ancient times. But the farmers fear being exposed to wholesalers.
Agriculture accounts for around 15 percent of India's economic output. For many of the 150 million farmers it is a matter of bare survival, some of them who only cultivate a few square meters of land. The suicide rate is high.
Bollywood stars sent messages of solidarity
So since November the protesting farmers have been camping by the hundreds of thousands on the access roads to Delhi and on an assigned field in the city, some died there in accidents, from the cold or from a heart attack. The dispute became political, the opposition Congress Party sided with the farmers, and Bollywood greats also sent expressions of solidarity via social media. 150 million people are even in the giant state of India, with 1.3 billion inhabitants, an impressive group of voters and target groups.
The protest took a turn when the Supreme Court in Delhi stopped the bills in January and ordered it to be renegotiated. A setback for the BJP government. There have been a few unsuccessful rounds since then. An arbitration committee was convened, but the farmers' representatives seemed to be too pro Modi. After three months of protests, they do not want to leave the negotiating table without a victory.
While the anniversary of the entry into force of the Indian constitution was to be celebrated on Tuesday, some farmers hijacked attention for their cause by storming the fortress. Many of the farmers are Sikhs. All of this was reminiscent of the religious conflicts that have preoccupied India from 1947 to the present day. Many politicians expressed their indignation. Amarinder Singh, Prime Minister of the large Punjab province with a lot of agriculture, called on the farmers to leave the capital "after the shocking scenes".
The "Samyukta Kisan Morcha", an umbrella organization under which the 40 or so farmers' associations gather to negotiate the agricultural laws, announced in a statement that it would distance itself from the "anti-social elements" in the Red Fort: " We condemn and regret these unwanted and unacceptable events. "
The Delhi police acted tough the day after the derailed protests: the Hindustan Times reported that surveillance cameras identified many rioters, including pushing police officers from the barricades. There are said to be charges of criminal conspiracy and attempted murder.
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