Over 200 farmers along with 40 union leaders launched a protest near the Indian parliament in Delhi on Thursday, demanding that three farm laws passed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government last year be revoked.
The protest is being staged at Jantar Mantar, a popular place in the heart of the city and located about two kilometres from the parliament, where the Monsoon Session is underway, amid a heavy security deployment.
The farmers were escorted to the parliament in buses from the Singhu Border, one of the main protest sites, earlier on Thursday morning. They have been granted permission to protest from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Indian time).
Speaking to Sputnik, Ravinder Singh Katiyar, a farmer leader, said police officials had stopped them at four different points before they reached Jantar Mantar.
"We have written letters to all the parliamentarians to speak for our cause, all opposition leaders are supporting us. The Modi government in the beginning said that only rich farmers are part of the protest, but our eight-month-long struggle has proved it wrong", he said.
On Thursday, farmer leaders also said they had started their own version of the parliament, as people inside the actual legislature failed to listen to them.
"This is a new form of protest, where we have appointed speakers just like our original parliament has", they said.
Meanwhile, several opposition leaders, including Congress' Rahul Gandhi, came out in support of the farmers and held a protest inside the parliament premises.
Since 26 November 2020, thousands of farmers, mainly from Haryana and Punjab states, have been protesting at three different sites on the outskirts of Delhi. The farmers are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
According to the government, the laws allow farmers to sell their produce at places apart from their designated agricultural market. They also aim at allowing contract farming, under which they can enter supply agreements with private firms for remunerative and pre-decided prices.
Farmers believe that the new laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system (MSP), leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.