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RALLIES in solidarity with India’s farmers were held in multiple states today as the thousands-strong road blockades around the capital continued.
Miles of road on the New Delhi-Haryana borders remain occupied by farmers who have blocked off access with tractors and trailers and say they will not disperse until the Narendra Modi government withdraws its pro-corporate agricultural reforms.
Communists staged roadblocks outside central government offices in Tamil Nadu while the All India Kisan Sabha (all-India peasants’ front, the agricultural wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist) set up roadblocks at Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh.
A farmer from Ludhiana, Punjab, at the Delhi border blockade said: “Modi wants to sell our lands to corporates.”
Another, Anmol Singh, said: “Modi wants the poor farmer to die of hunger so he can fill the stomachs of his rich friends.”
Kulwant Singh said that on leaving his home for the protests, he had given his wife a garland of flowers: “Either I return victorious and she places it round my neck in celebration, or I die here in revolt and the same garland is put on my body when it reaches home.”
Along the miles of blockaded motorway are hundreds of soup kitchens. Farmers’ leaders say they have food and fuel for weeks and have not ruled out a siege of Delhi.
The farmers were initially met with massive police violence as they approached New Delhi in late November. Hundreds were arrested, hundreds injured in police charges in which they were beaten with lathis (bamboo sticks wielded by Indian police) and others hit by water cannon blasts. But the size of the protests has caused the government to plead for the farmers to relocate to a designated space within the capital and talk – offers they have declined.
The BJP government passed three agricultural bills in September that allow private stockpiling of food while deregulating crop prices. Farmers say this will empower corporate agribusiness to dictate prices and profit from food insecurity.
The farmers also oppose a Bill that privatises electricity distribution. Many states say it will end their democratic role in regulating power supply and render unviable many state-level free or subsidised electricity schemes.
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