TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Thousands of Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades on Tuesday to enter the historic Red Fort complex in the capital and hoist flags after clashing with police.
Growers, angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, have camped outside New Delhi for almost two months, posing one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.
The body of one protester draped in an Indian tricolour lay in a central Delhi street after the tractor he rode overturned in one of the clashes, a witness told Reuters.
The government ordered internet services in some parts of the capital to be blocked, according to mobile carrier Vodafone Idea, in an attempt to prevent further unrest.
Tens of thousands of bearded and turbanned farmers, many bundled against the winter cold, began the day in a convoy of tractors festooned with Indian and union flags along the city’s fringes.
But hundreds of protesters soon broke away from pre-approved routes, heading for the city centre where the government was holding an annual Republic Day parade of troops and military hardware on Tuesday morning.
Agriculture employs about half of India’s population of 1.3 billion, and unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers worries the government.
Nine rounds of talks with farmers’ unions have failed to end the protests, as farm leaders rejected the government’s offer to delay the laws for 18 months, making a push for repeal instead.
“The farm organisations have a very strong hold,” said Ambar Kumar Ghosh, an analyst at New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation.
“They have the resources to mobilise support, and to continue the protest for a long time. They have also been very successful in keeping the protest really focused.”
India showcases its military hardware with a parade every year on Republic Day, which marks the adoption of its constitution in 1950.