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Indian police fire tear gas on farmers demonstrate in Delhi

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Following four rounds of discussions with the federal government that failed to break the impasse, Indian police have opened fire with tear gas on protesting farmers who have resumed their march through the nation’s capital, Delhi.

The farmers claim they have months’ worth of supplies on hand and are prepared for guaranteed prices for their produce.

To prevent their access, barbed wire and multiple levels of barricades have been up along Delhi’s borders.

However, demonstrators have threatened to force their way through using large machinery.

Images from the Shambhu border between the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana were captured on camera on Wednesday. Thousands of farmers were seen getting ready to use bulldozers and earthmovers to smash past obstacles.

Police fired teargas at the protesters as they attempted to move towards the border, BBC Punjabi reported. Farmers seemed better prepared than last week as they used masks, gloves and safety suits to protect themselves from the shelling.

Many among the protesters flew kites to interfere with the police’s operation of drones, which have been used to drop tear gas shells on them.

Farm leaders also made frequent announcements for unity, appealing to the security forces to not attack their “brethren”.

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munde has invited farmers for a fifth round of talks. “It is important for us to maintain peace,” he wrote on X (Formerly Twitter). Farmers are yet to respond to this invite.

Meanwhile, police in Haryana have asked their counterparts in Punjab to stop women, children and journalists at least 1km away from the borders for their safety. They have also asked the Punjab police to seize bulldozers and other heavy machinery from the protesting sites.

In Delhi, security has been tightened and large gatherings have been banned for a month.

Located at a distance of about 200kms (125 miles) from the capital, farmers have been stationed at Shambhu border since last week when authorities authorities clashed with the protesters, firing tear gas and plastic bullets at them in a bid to halt them.

They fear a repeat of 2020, when thousands of farmers hunkered down at Delhi’s borders for months – braving extreme temperatures and Covid – against controversial agriculture reforms. Dozens died in the year-long protest which ended only after the government agreed to repeal the laws.

The latest round of protests also come months before the general elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeing a third term in power. Farmers form an influential voting bloc in India and and analysts say the government will be keen not to anger or alienate them.

Farmers’ leaders say their march is peaceful and have urged the government to let them enter the capital.

“We tried our best from our side. We attended the meetings and discussed every issue, now the decision lies with the government. We will remain peaceful but we should be allowed to remove these barriers and march towards Delhi,” farm leader Sarwan Singh Pandher told reporters.

The government has so far held four rounds of meetings with farmers’ unions. Protesters say the government did not keep promises made during the 2020-21 protest, and also have demands including pensions and a debt waiver.

On Monday, farmers’ leaders rejected a proposal to buy some crops at assured prices on a five-year contract, saying the offer was “not in their interest”.

The government had proposed buying pulses, maize and cotton at guaranteed floor prices – also known as Minimum Support Price or MSP – through cooperatives for five years.

But the farmers say that they will stand by their demand of a “legal guarantee for MSP on all 23 crops”.

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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