Farmers in India clash with police on Republic Day
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, who fired tear gas to scatter them.
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 tricolor lay in a central Delhi street after the tractor he rode overturned in one of the clashes, said witness Vishu Arora.
“He died right there.”
At least five police and three protesters were injured at the Red Fort, from whose ramparts Modi delivers an annual speech.
Some of those who scaled its walls carried ceremonial swords, overwhelming police who were trying to prevent them from entering.
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 turbaned farmers, many bundled against the winter cold, began the day in a convoy of tractors festooned with Indian and union flags along the capital’s fringes.
But hundreds soon broke away from pre-approved routes, heading for the city center where the government was holding an annual Republic Day parade of troops and military hardware.
“Modi will hear us now, he will have to hear us now,” said Sukhdev Singh, 55, a farmer from the northern state of Punjab, who was among hundreds of protesters, some on horseback, who broke away from one of the three protest routes.
From the city’s north they headed toward government buildings in the center. They commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down roadblocks, forcing police in riot gear to give way.
In a statement, Delhi police accused those who diverged from the agreed routes of “violence and destruction.”