NEW DELHI (INDIA) – Protesting farmers of India have come up with innovative ways to demonstrate their own peaceful show of strength. Ahead of India’s Republic Day, farmers are riding into the capital city in caravans of tractors.
Farmers mainly drawn from states of Punjab and adjoining Haryana, known as the breadbasket states, have blockaded roads into New Delhi for about two months to protest against three new farm laws they say will hurt their livelihoods and help big companies. On Monday thousands of caravan’s clogged a key highway in northern India.
“We will teach Modi a lesson that he will never forget,” said one of the protesters, from the district of Ludhiana in Punjab, who drove his own tractor. The 35-year-old, who cultivates 10 acres (4 hectares), asked not to be identified.
Loudspeakers blared anti-government songs as the lengthy procession of vehicles rolled down National Highway 44, accompanied by dozens of community kitchens to hand out hot meals and beverages in the winter cold.
After rejecting a government proposal to suspend the measures it says will usher in much-needed steps to boost farmer incomes, farmer’s unions are pushing to repeal the laws.
After several rounds of talks with Modi’s government failed to make any progress, protesters now aim to up the ante with the procession set to follow Tuesday’s Republic day military parade.
Police has informed that they will permit at least 12,000 tractors to traverse a 100-km (62-mile) stretch around the capital, despite some intelligence warnings of possible efforts to disrupt the farmers’ peaceful rally.
A farmers’ group exhorted its members to refrain from violence in detailed instructions issued for Tuesday’s event.
“Remember, our aim is not to conquer Delhi, but to win over the hearts of the people of this county,” it said.
In the western state of Maharashtra, thousands of farmers were also on the move, flocking to a flag-hoisting ceremony on Tuesday in the heart of Mumbai, India’s financial capital.
“We are here to support farmers in Delhi, to highlight that farmers across the country are against the farm laws,” said Ashok Dhawale, a state protest leader.