NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Thousands of Indian farmers gathered in a large grain market outside New Delhi on Tuesday, protesting new agricultural laws they say threaten their livelihoods and actions by police during similar demonstrations last week.
“A large number of farmers are attending the meeting to ask the government to punish those responsible for using force against unarmed and elderly farmers,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, a senior farmers’ leader.
The grain market where farmers were meeting on Tuesday is about 150km from New Delhi, in neighbouring Haryana state.
Farmers will also organise demonstrations at major government offices in Haryana to press their demands, Rajewal said.
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“The use of excess, disproportionate force was not only brutal, but it was also a vengeful act,” he said.
Last month, about 10 farmers were injured after police resorted to baton charges to stop protesters from blocking a Haryana highway. One farmer died later although officials say the death was not due to baton injuries.
Authorities in Haryana stepped up security and shut down mobile internet services, state government officials said. In addition to a large police deployment, the government has also positioned paramilitary forces, they said.
For more than eight months, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on major highways to New Delhi to oppose the farm laws in India’s longest-running growers’ protest.
More than half a million farmers participated in a protest in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday – the biggest rally yet – demanding the withdrawal of the laws, introduced in September last year.
Farm leaders say the laws would erode a longstanding mechanism that ensures farmers a minimum guaranteed price for their rice and wheat, but the government says this will help growers get better prices.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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