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TENS of thousands of farmers were descending on New Delhi today, intending to stage mammoth rallies against agribusiness laws to mark Republic Day on Tuesday.
Motorways around the capital were clogged with tractors as farmers vowed to “teach [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi a lesson he will never forget.”
Farmers have blocked roads around New Delhi for over two months in protest at new agricultural laws that open the sector to transnational corporations and abolish price guarantees for essential produce.
Across India, farmers converged on their own state capitals, ready for rallies against the government on Republic Day. In Mumbai, an estimated 15,000 farmers gathered to set out for New Delhi.
India’s government is staging a military parade to celebrate the day, which commemorates independence from Britain, but it is likely to be overshadowed by the farmers’ Kisan Gantantra (“farmers’ republic”) parade. The Supreme Court has declined a government request to ban the march.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said that Republic Day was a time to recognise that under Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP, the country’s secular constitution had been “wrecked.”
“At present, there are hundreds of people in jail with no prospect of bail because they are charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act ... They are not criminals or terrorists but political and social activists, journalists and even stand-up comedians,” its website People’s Democracy stated.
The CPI-M pointed out that 49 people were already jailed in Uttar Pradesh under the “love jihad” ordinance – an Islamophobic law allowing families to prevent marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women.
Religious equality had disappeared, it said: “if a Muslim boy walks with a Hindu girl on a public road, he can be hauled up and put in jail if a complaint is lodged by any of the Hindutva outfits. The Hindutva mob, the police and the court – all act in unison.
“Republic Day should be the occasion to resolve to fight relentlessly for the political, social and economic rights of citizens – the tractor parade of the farmers will exemplify this fight,” the party concluded.
India reported today that its troops had clashed again with soldiers from China along the two countries’ disputed Himalayan border last week, but Beijing said that it had no record of the incident, which its Global Times newspaper derided as “fake news” aimed at whipping up nationalist feeling for Republic Day.
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