Three recently passed agriculture bills have angered Farmers and sparked six months of protest in India. The bills were proposed as giving farmers more freedom to control their own trade and expand their own markets but according to farmers they have major issues. Protests stayed peaceful until recently when they turned violent. This violence has prompted internet shutdowns in 14 of the 22 districts in Haryana state near New Delhi.
The Bills That Caused Protests
Farmers and agricultural workers, who make up nearly 60 percent of India’s population, are outraged over three pieces of agricultural legislation passed in September by India’s parliament with support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The three bills decrease trade regulations on goods, allow for trading online and interstate, enable farmers and buyers to enact exclusive contracts, and limit the government’s ability to regulate essential commodities. The farmers believe the deregulation will increase competition giving corporate buyers all the power. Giving buyers access to more suppliers gives them the ability to drive prices down. This is further enforced by the bill removing minimum prices for items. Farmers say this practice was barely helping them to squeak by already.
Outrage Sparks Protests
The protest began in August ahead of the three bills passing. According to the NY times many of the protesting farmers are members of the Sikh religious minority and come from the states of Punjab and Haryana. Protests began as peaceful. Thousands of farmers camped outside of New Delhi in tent cities demanding the three Bills be repealed. Al Jazeera reported there were deaths reported from mostly natural causes. The cold, heart attacks, and motor vehicle accidents on the way to protests claimed the lives of dozens of peaceful protesters. This changed on India’s 72nd Republic Day.
Farmers Protesting In India Turn Violent
Tuesday January 26, 2021 a demonstration that was supposed to be peaceful ended with protesters forcing their way through police barricades. The tractor parade turned violent as protestors fought with police and ran a rebellious flag up the ramparts of the Red Fort. Videos show protestors using tractors to break through barricades. One protestor was reported to have died when their tractor flipped over. Why did violence erupt? Has the government attempted to listen to demands of protesters?
What Has The Indian Government Done?
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked for peace and to respect peaceful protests. The government has cut internet access to many protest sites in retaliation to violence. The Supreme Court has issued an injunction temporarily pausing the implementation of the laws but farmers still demand the Bills be repealed completely. With farmers protesting in India daily, we currently don’t have an end in sight.
Written by: Erinn Malloy