Thousands of farmers march to Indian capital defying tear gas

Thousands of farmers have entered the capital New Delhi for a planned protest against new farm laws hours after the police fired several rounds of tear gas and used water cannon to stop the Dilli Chalo (Go to Delhi) march.

Protesting Indian farmers scuffled with police earlier on Friday during the march to the capital, against new laws, which will make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to private buyers and enter into a contract with private companies.

But farmers demand the bills, passed by India’s parliament in September, be scrapped fearing the laws will leave them vulnerable to big corporates.

A Delhi Police spokesperson confirmed to Al Jazeera the farmers have been given permission to enter the national capital and hold a peaceful protest at the Nirankari Samagam Ground in the Burari area.However, farmers from several states and trade unions, who wanted to stage protest in the Ramlila ground in the heart of the city, have yet to comment if they would agree to the new venue.

Television footage showed plumes of smoke and some people throwing stones at police as thousands pressed against barricades, waving flags and sticks. Some rode tractors near the barriers.

‘We will reach Delhi no matter what’

Earlier, farmer leader Sukhdev Singh told Al Jazeera over the phone from Narwana, Haryana, they would continue marching towards the national capital no matter what.

“If the government thinks that it is going to stop us by using force or blocking the roads, that is not going to happen. We will reach Delhi no matter how much time it takes,” he said.

“This government doesn’t care about the farmers. It’s trying to destroy us and help big corporates.”

“We don’t want to jam the roads. We just want to march to Delhi but it’s the government which is resorting to violence and blocking roads and causing inconvenience to people.”

Television footage showed plumes of smoke and some people throwing stones at police as thousands pressed against barricades, waving flags and sticks. Some rode tractors near the barriers.

‘We will reach Delhi no matter what’

Earlier, farmer leader Sukhdev Singh told Al Jazeera over the phone from Narwana, Haryana, they would continue marching towards the national capital no matter what.

“If the government thinks that it is going to stop us by using force or blocking the roads, that is not going to happen. We will reach Delhi no matter how much time it takes,” he said.

“This government doesn’t care about the farmers. It’s trying to destroy us and help big corporates.”

“We don’t want to jam the roads. We just want to march to Delhi but it’s the government which is resorting to violence and blocking roads and causing inconvenience to people.”Another protesting farmer Sukrampal Dhayana said the police tried to stop them with force, barricades and water cannon, but farmers have “decided to stay the course to make sure the government listens to the voice of millions of farmers”.

 

Suburban train services into New Delhi were suspended, Delhi Metro said in a post on Twitter, in a bid to stop the protesters from riding the trains.

Senior journalist P Sainath slammed the government’s decision to use security forces against farmers.

“It’s barbarism. Using the border security force against your own people,” said Sainath, the founding editor of People’s Archive of Rural India, an online portal focusing on rural issues.The clashes come a day after police in New Delhi’s neighbouring state of Haryana, governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the farmers who tried to march towards the capital.

Extraordinary scenes

Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from New Delhi, said police are citing a record-high number of coronavirus cases in not giving permission to protest organisers, but that has not stopped thousands of farmers from neighbouring states trying to reach Delhi for the second day.

“We’ve seen more extraordinary photos today of farmers using tractors to remove trucks, which police are using as barricades.

“They are determined because they want the government to repeal laws they say take away guarantees prices around their produce and leave them at the mercy of private investors. This is a huge issue in India.”

Earlier a police request to use stadiums as temporary jails was rejected by the city authorities, according to local media.

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