08:04 GMT15 June 2021
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    Protesting Indian farmers have camped out on the outskirts of New Delhi since November, demanding that agricultural laws passed by the Modi government in September 2020 be repealed. Farmers fear the new laws will open up the country's agriculture markets to private companies, and end the minimum support price regime.

    On Sunday, at least 50 farmers and 20 police officers were injured in a two-hour clash in the northern state of Haryana after state police baton-charged them for protesting at an event attended by state chief Manohar Lal Khattar

    Soon after the skirmishes, law enforcement detained around 85 farmers, however, all of them were released the same night at 1:00 a.m. (17 May).  

    ​Speaking to Sputnik, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Simran Dhindsa said, "our protest was against the state chief, and beforehand we informed the authorities to let the hospital be inaugurated by some doctor or any Health Department representative". 

    "It was also decided that we will not block ambulances, doctors, oxygen transports, fire brigade, and army vehicles. The protest was only against ministers and government officials", Dhindsa said. 

    ​The deadlock between farmers and the state government has been growing since the Narendra Modi government passed three agrarian laws in parliament. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government has supported the legislation. 

    In a similar event, on 10 January, a group of farmers protesting against the federal farm laws ransacked a venue in the Karnal district, where state chief Khattar was scheduled to arrive. The event was later cancelled. 

    In March, deputy state chief Dushyant Chautala preferred to skip an event rather than face the agitating farmers. According to local media reports, many state ministers have skipped gatherings to avoid backlash from farmers. 

    Yet, soon after camping out in Delhi, farmers in Haryana also banned BJP leaders from visiting their villages. 

    Harinder Singh, a scholar who's been closely watching the protests, told Sputnik that "since the beginning of the protest, the state government has taken a very bold stand. To date, they have not softened it".

    The state chief even went as far as to say that the ongoing demonstrations by farmers is contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in villages. After this, some politicians hinted at taking legal action against the farmers accusing them of spreading coronavirus and not following lockdown protocols. 

    "His statement angered the farmers", Harinder underlined. 

    Refuting all the claims, senior BJP leader Subhash Barala told Sputnik that "since the beginning of the protest, we have been meeting them and hearing their demands. But, the farmer leaders are not ready to change their stance. Moreover, for the past six months, we have never used force against farmers, they are free to protest". 

    "Now, when the government is inaugurating a hospital during an hour of crisis, they should not stop it. Here, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and the government is only helping people". 

    "Has the government filed any case against the farmers? Not so far", he added. 

    The northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, also known as the nation's breadbasket, produce around 50 percent of wheat and rice in the country. According to farmers, open markets have never offered them better remuneration for their produce. Farmers in Punjab sold their rice last year to the government at $25 for 100 kilograms, however, the same produce in central India went for just $16 on the open market. Over the last two years, close to 45% of all the rice and wheat procured by government agencies came from just two states - Punjab (28.9%) and Haryana (15.9%).

    The Food Corporation of India has confirmed that the federal government purchased more than 70 percent of the states' overall production. 

    Per farmers, a government-backed system of assured prices encouraged farmers in Punjab and Haryana to grow rice, and moreover, it offered better prices than any alternative system.

    The Haryana government has so far ignored the farmers' demands. However, Punjab, which is currently governed by Congress, has supported the farmers' demands, futher causing anger against Haryana state chief Khattar.


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