MUMBAI (INDIA) – In the wake of a nationwide road blockade imposed by protesting farmers, The United Nations human rights office has urged Indian authorities and protesting farmers to exercise “maximum restraint”.
The farmers will hold a three-hour “chakka jam”, or road blockade, starting around noon local time (0630 GMT) across the country except in New Delhi and a couple of neighbouring states.
“The rights to peaceful assembly & expression should be protected both offline & online,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Twitter late on Friday.
“It’s crucial to find equitable solutions with due respect to #HumanRights for all.”
While the protests were initiated by rice and wheat growers from northern India, particularly opposition-ruled Punjab state, support has been growing across the country.
The issue has also caught international attention with celebrities such as pop star Rihanna and environment campaigner Greta Thunberg announcing their support for the farmers. The United States has also urged India to resume talks with farmers.
The protests have mostly been peaceful but a tractor rally on Jan. 26 turned into turmoil after some farmers clashed with police in New Delhi. This caused authorities have shut down the mobile internet in parts of the national capital and heavily barricaded border roads to prevent protesters from coming into the city again.
The government says the reforms will bring much-needed investment to the farm sector, which accounts for nearly 15% of India’s $2.9 trillion economy and about half its workforce. They have held multiple rounds of talks with farmer representatives but failed to resolve their differences.