Tens of Thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi since November, calling for a repeal of laws they fear will allow large corporations to crush them.
The massive farmer protests have been a significant challenge to Prime Minister Of India Narendra Modi as months of demonstrations and sit-ins across the country against his key agricultural policy have grown into a stalemate marked by deadlocked talks between farmers and his administration.
For decades, the Indian government offered guaranteed prices to farmers for certain crops, providing long-term certainty that, in theory, allowed them to make investments for the next crop cycle. The new rules allow farmers to sell their goods to anyone for any price -- giving them more freedom to do things such as sell directly to buyers and sell to other states.
But farmers argue that the new rules will leave them worse off by making it easier for corporations to exploit agricultural workers, and help big companies drive down prices. While farmers could sell crops at elevated prices if the demand is there, conversely, they could struggle to meet the minimum price in years when there is too much supply in the market.
The laws have been so contentious because agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India's 1.3 billion population, and farmers have been arguing for years to get the minimum guaranteed prices increased. They are the biggest voter block in the country -- making farming a central political issue.
The government has held rounds of talks with leaders of more than 30 farmers' unions that are opposed to the laws -- but the talks have gone nowhere.
Last month, India's Supreme Court issued an order putting the three contentious farm laws on hold and ordered the formation of a four-member mediation committee to help the parties negotiate. But farmers' leaders have rejected any court-appointed mediation committee.
By mid December, the Supreme Court of India had received a batch of petitions related to removing blockades created by protesters around Delhi. The court also asked the government to put the laws on hold, which they refused. On 4 January 2021 the court registered the first plea filed in favour of the protesting farmers. Farmers have said they will not listen to the courts if told to back off. Their leaders have also said that staying the farm laws is not a solution.
On 30 December, the Indian Government agreed to two of the farmers' demands; excluding farmers from new pollution laws and dropping amendments to the new Electricity Ordinance. On 26 January, tens of thousands of the farmers protesting against the agricultural reforms held a farmer's parade with a large convoy of tractors and drove into Delhi. The protesters deviated from the pre-sanctioned routes permitted by the Delhi Police.
The tractor rally turned into a violent protest at certain as the protesting farmers drove through the barricades and clashed with the police. Later protesters reached Red Fort and installed farmer union flags and religious flags on the mast on the rampart of the Red Fort.
However, Internet access remained blocked on Monday 1 february 2021 in several districts of a state bordering India's capital following violent weekend clashes between police and farmers protesting controversial agricultural reforms.
Online access would be suspended in at least 14 of 22 districts in Haryana state near New Delhi, until 5 p.m. Monday, according to the Department of Information and Public Relations of Haryana on Sunday. That order was first imposed Tuesday in three Haryana districts for 24 hours, but has been extended every day since.
With Pop superstar Rihanna, Climate and environmental activist Greta Thunberg and many other prominent foreign voices taking the farmers' protest to the world stage with their tweets.