23:06 GMT28 February 2021
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    Braving a harsh winter, thousands of Indian farmers are protesting on Delhi's borders. They're demanding the government repeals three federal farm laws passed in parliament last year, arguing they leave them at the mercy of big companies.

    A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the trio of controversial farm laws in parliament, farmer leaders on Tuesday said they would make sure the country knows the truth about the new legislation. 

    Farmers say their cause is being hampered by misinformation shared online.  

    Speaking to Sputnik, Harinder Singh – a farmers' leader – said: "From the past month it looks like some negative campaign has been launched to target us. We are being targeted as anti-national elements."

    "If someone is found eating pizza at the protest site, the entire farmer community is shamed," he said. "Likewise, if international celebrities are speaking for us, we are being targeted for defaming the country."

    A BJP parliamentarian recently claimed that many of the protesting farmers are actually paid workers, eating pizza while camping on Delhi's borders.

    He made the comment on 12 December after a farmers' union organised a free community meal, including pizza, for the protestors. It soon went viral on social media with people slamming the farmers for being treated so well. 

    Singh is associated with the Sanyukht Morcha Kisan (SKM), a united front of more than 40 farmers' unions protesting against the new farm laws.

    Last week, the Indian farmers’ protest drew global attention after celebrities like music icon Rihanna, ex-adult film star Mia Khalifa, Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg, and many others who tweeted in support of their cause. 

    The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has warned foreign celebrities against meddling in the country's internal matters.

    "We were accused of 26 January violence and labelled as Khalistanis [people demanding a separate homeland for Sikhs], Maoist and what not," he said.

    On 26 January, Delhi violence rocked Delhi's iconic Red Fort. During a farmers' tractor rally, police and protesting farmers clashed, leading to around 400 people being injured.

    "People are being misled by the Indian media, fake news and social media. We will now hold the Kisan Maha Panchayats [village level farmers' meetings] in different cities of the country telling people and small farmers why we are demanding to scrap the farms and law on MSP," he stated.

    According to sources, scores of farmers are mobilising in the states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh as they prepare to to send reinforcements to Delhi.




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