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World Heavy security, roads closed after Delhi farmer riots

15:01  27 january  2021
15:01  27 january  2021 Source:   afp.com

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Indian police imposed heavy security and closed several main roads around New Delhi on Wednesday, a day after farmers went on the rampage in the capital, leaving one person dead and several hundred injured.

Map of India showing the capital New Delhi where thousands of farmers in tractor convoys burst through police barricades on January 26 to protest against agricultural reforms. © STAFF Map of India showing the capital New Delhi where thousands of farmers in tractor convoys burst through police barricades on January 26 to protest against agricultural reforms.

The violence marked a dramatic escalation in a standoff between the government and thousands of farmers who have been camped on the outskirts of Delhi since late November demanding that new agricultural reforms be scrapped.

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a group of people jumping in the air: The farmers want new agricultural reforms scrapped © Money SHARMA The farmers want new agricultural reforms scrapped

On Tuesday -- during the annual Republic Day parade -- convoys of farmers on tractors smashed through barricades to converge on the city centre, seeing off police baton charges and volleys of tear gas.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: At the historic Red Fort landmark farmers broke through police lines and put up their own emblem on the flagpole © Sajjad HUSSAIN At the historic Red Fort landmark farmers broke through police lines and put up their own emblem on the flagpole

One farmer was killed in what police said was an accident when his tractor overturned after hitting a barricade. At least 300 officers were injured, a police spokesman told AFP.

Around the city, security forces fought running battles with demonstrators. Farmers also laid into police with branches and metal bars, and hijacked buses used to block their convoys.

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One video showed police jumping down a seven-metre (20-foot) wall to escape baton-swinging protestors near the historic Red Fort landmark.

Farmers there broke through police lines and ran their own emblem up a flagpole to cheers from the large crowd, before being dispersed from the ramparts by security forces.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Indian police and farmers clash at tractor protest © Glenda KWEK Indian police and farmers clash at tractor protest

On one main road, people on rooftops threw petals on the tractor convoys. Elsewhere people cheered and applauded as farmers went past waving Indian flags and blowing horns.

As night fell, the farmers retreated to the camps outside the city where they have been braving Delhi's chilly winter nights for months now.

Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah ordered 15 companies of paramilitaries to boost security forces in the capital, according to media reports.

a group of people flying kites in the air: The unrest was a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government © Sajjad HUSSAIN The unrest was a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government

On Wednesday morning a number of major roads were blocked as police and security forces set up barricades, leading to major traffic congestion. Riot police were stationed near the Red Fort.

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- Blow for Modi -

The unrest was a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government, for whom the farmer protests represent the biggest challenge since coming to power in 2014.

Farming has long been a political minefield, with nearly 70 percent of the population drawing its livelihood from agriculture in the vast nation of 1.3 billion people.

Laws passed in September enabled farmers to sell to any buyer they chose, rather than to commission agents at state-controlled markets.

But farmers, at least in northern states like Punjab where most of the protestors come from, fear this will leave them at the mercy of big agribusiness corporations.

The government has offered to suspend the reforms for 18 months, but farmer unions want nothing short of the laws being binned.

- 'Deflated' mood -

The violence could prove to be a setback for the farmers as well, by costing them support both among their own ranks and the wider population.

"What happened yesterday was not right. This is the pride of the nation and they took the flag down," said Pramod Sharma, 35, a shopkeeper near the Red Fort.

Farmer unions have condemned the unrest.

"For the last two months they had been conducting their protest in a peaceful and dignified manner," said Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, a political analyst.

"So even those who did not agree with them respected them. The violence has dented this a bit."

At the Singhu state border crossing, one of the main protest sites, the mood was deflated on Wednesday, and some accused government elements of being behind the violence.

"Our protest and movement was yesterday hijacked by the people who support the government, or wanted this to happen," said Amritpal Singh, 36, a gym trainer from Punjab who has joined the protests.

But he added: "What happened shouldn't be seen as anything against our long and very peaceful struggle against the laws. We are here and not going anywhere."

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Indian journalists accused of sedition for farmer protest reports .
Cases filed against TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, Caravan editor Vinod Jose and others for reports and online posts.The cases have been filed with police in at least five states against the journalists, who include Rajdeep Sardesai, a prominent anchor on the India Today television channel, and Vinod Jose, executive editor of the English-language Caravan magazine.

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