Protesting farmers clash with security forces 200km from New Delhi

REUTERS/Rohit Lohia/File Photo
Farmers, who are marching towards New Delhi to press for the better crop prices promised to them in 2021, run for cover amidst tear gas smoke fired by police to disperse them at Shambhu, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana states, India, February 13, 2024.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Protesting Indian farmers attempting to reach the capital New Delhi clashed with security forces for a second day on Wednesday, with drones being used to drop tear gas shells, television images showed.

Hundreds of farmers, traveling on trucks and trolleys loaded with food, bedding and other supplies, began marching towards Delhi on Tuesday morning after talks between their unions and the government failed to yield a commitment regarding minimum prices for a range of crops.

The protesters were stopped by security forces at the Shambhu border that divides Punjab and Haryana – the northern states to which most of the protesters belong – almost 200 km (125 miles) from their destination.

“We want the prime minister to come forward and speak to the farmers,” Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, told Indian news agency ANI.

The government, meanwhile, appealed to farmers to come forward and have a discussion on the matter.

“Efforts will continue to speak to farmers’ unions in a constructive and positive manner,” Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda told reporters on Wednesday.

A similar year-long protest in 2021 by farmers, a powerful voting bloc, had pushed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to repeal some farm laws and promise to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce.

Farmers say the government has been slow on fulfilling the latter promise.

The latest protests come with the country months away from a national election where Modi will seek a third term.

ANI images showed tight security arrangements in other areas bordering the national capital as well, with rows of barricades and cement blocks topped with wire meshing, and empty containers lying ready for use as physical barriers.

Other images showed security forces in anti-riot gear standing ready to be deployed.

Haryana has also suspended mobile internet services, bulk messaging, and dongle services in several parts of the state until Thursday night, fearing these may be misused to spread “inflammatory material” and “false rumors.”