India steps up security as farmers take to New Delhi's streets

Union calls for proper introduction of minimum support price for crops and withdrawal of criminal charges

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Police in New Delhi have tightened security and put up concrete barricades on the roads in an attempt to block thousands of farmers converging on India's capital on Monday for a day-long protest.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer organisations, called for a protest to demand the proper introduction of a minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

It has also called for measures to make all farmers debt-free and the withdrawal of all criminal charges against protesters involved in the year-long movement.

“It will be a one-day programme which will be conducted with complete peace and discipline,” the farmers' body said.

“If the government tries to create any kind of disturbance, then the government itself will be responsible for that.”

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha is also demanding the arrest of the minister of state in the Ministry of Interior, Ajay Mishra, whose son Ashish Mishra is accused of shooting at farmers and then mowing them down with a car in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri in October last year.

Eight people, including four farmers, were killed after violence broke out during the Lakhimpur Kheri protest against new farm laws.

Farmers from northern Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and southern Karnataka states began to arrive via train in the capital's Jantar Mantar assembly on Monday morning, wearing green turbans and carrying flags with slogans against the government.

There was a heavy police presence at Singhu border, near Haryana, and Tikri, near Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad — the tension points where hundreds of thousands farmers converged and protested, for a year, against the three contentious farm laws in November 2020.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pushed the bills that sought to deal with the sale of produce in the free market, contract farming and the deregulation of food commodities.

Farmers attend a Maha Panchayat or grand village council meeting as part of a farmers' protest against what they say are unfulfilled promises by the government, in New Delhi. Reuters

The government termed the laws “historic” and the “biggest reforms” in the agriculture sector but was forced to roll them back after unrelenting protests by farmers who said they were not in their best interests.

The farmers also said protests would continue until legislation to guarantee minimum prices was passed.

A three-kilometre traffic jam ensued at the Delhi-Ghazipur border as commuters headed for New Delhi were stuck due to barricades set up.

Rakesh Tikait, a top protest leader who led the demonstration at Delhi’s Gazipur border, said he was detained by police when he entered the city to participate in the protests on Sunday.

“The Delhi Police working on the behest of the government cannot suppress the voice of the farmers. This arrest will bring a new revolution. This struggle will continue till the last breath,” Mr Tikait said.

Updated: August 22, 2022, 3:21 PM