Home News Indian 'warriors' face police to back protesting farmers

Indian ‘warriors’ face police to back protesting farmers

Indian Sikh warriors, some on horseback, gathered Thursday to protect protesting farmers stalled by fearsome police barricades from advancing on the capital New Delhi to demand higher crop prices.

“The farmers’ leaders believe that solution is through talks but the police attack us at the same time,” said Daljeet Singh, a farmer from Gurdaspur in India’s north.

Thousands of farmers on tractors launched what they have dubbed “Delhi Chalo”, or “March to Delhi”, last week to demand a law to fix a minimum price for their crops, in addition to other concessions including the waiving of loans.

Protesters have defied repeated efforts to disperse them, vowing to push through a fearsome blockade of metal spikes and concrete barricades erected to halt their progress.

“No farmer, no food,” one protester scrawled on a concrete barrier.

However, the farmers remain blocked by the barricades and by barrages of tear gas fired or dropped by drones when they try to come close.

‘People who are oppressed’

Alongside the farmers, hundreds of Nihangs — a centuries-old warrior group renowned for their bravery in defending the Sikh faith — have come to guard the demonstration.

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“We are with the people who are oppressed, even if that means we die,” said Rann Fateh Singh, dressed in sweeping purple robes and a high turban that marked him out as a Nihang.

The Nihangs patrol the barricades near the small village of Shambhu, where the farmers have been stalled, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of New Delhi.

The protests echo similar ones in January 2021, when farmers used their tractors to smash through barriers and rolled into New Delhi on Republic Day during their then year-long protest.

This time around, their hundreds of tractors have been halted by concrete blocks and rolls of razor wire.

The demonstrations come ahead of national elections likely to start in April.

Two-thirds of India’s 1.4 billion people draw their livelihoods from agriculture, accounting for nearly a fifth of the country’s GDP.

But farm incomes have remained largely stagnant for the past few decades and the sector is in dire need of investment and modernisation.

Women farmers have also turned out among the thousands of men.

“Our demands are not illegal. We had announced that we want to go to Delhi peacefully… but the government has behaved as if we are people from an enemy state,” 56-year-old Sukhwinder Kaur said.

“We will not go back.”

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