Police clash with thousands of protesting farmers in India

Drones drop tear gas on farmers trying to reach New Delhi to call for higher crop prices

Police clashed violently with thousands of protesting farmers on Tuesday while trying to prevent them reaching India’s capital New Delhi from three northern states. The farmers were travelling to the capital to press their demands for higher crop prices, which the federal government promised in 2021.

A day after talks to resolve matters with senior ministers failed, drones dropped tear gas shells on the farmers and riot police fought running battles with them at Shambhu, 230km north of Delhi in Haryana state, as they breached a barrier of concrete walls and barbed wire that had been erected to stop them.

The authorities in Delhi’s adjoining farming states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh dug up dried river beds and embedded large nails into roads to prevent farmers from traversing them in their tractors, en route to the capital.

As a preventive measure, all mobile telephone and internet services were suspended across Haryana and Punjab, while police in Delhi invoked a Colonial-era statute banning gatherings of more than four people.


In Haryana, police commandeered large stadiums to house farmers in anticipation of large numbers of them being detained, in addition to conducting mock drills on highways in the run-up to Tuesday’s march to “neutralise” the farmers’ tractor-and-trolley fleets.

Tuesday’s protest follows the year-long sit-in from late-2020 by tens of thousands of farmers along Delhi’s borders that eventually led to the repeal of four controversial agricultural laws passed by prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government.

At the time the BJP administration promised to set up a panel of farmers and government officials to determine equitable procurement prices by state-run wholesale markets for all farm produce and to double meagre incomes in the agricultural sector.

It also agreed to launch a pension scheme for farmers and waive all loans, which had led to a large number of suicides due to repeated crop failure, but failed fulfil any of its commitments.

This, in turn, triggered widespread disaffection and unrest among India’s agricultural sector which employs about 60 per cent of India’s population of more than 1.4 billion.

Punjab’s chief minister Bhagwant Mann accused the BJP government of creating an “internal border” within the country and preventing farmers from asserting the right to protest by marching to Delhi.

“There are as many barbed wires placed from Haryana to Delhi as there are at India’s border with Pakistan” he said over the weekend, urging the BJP administration to accept the farmers’ “legitimate demands”.

Manjit Singh Rai, who heads one of more than 200 farmer unions participating in the protest, said the demonstrators wanted to reach Delhi to raise their demands. “We are not coming from Pakistan or the Taliban,” he said, adding that Mr Modi had nothing to fear from the farmers as they came in peace.

Meanwhile, Delhi is bracing itself for a return of the traffic chaos experienced during the previous farmers’ protest that distressed millions of commuters for more than 12 months.

The city’s normally disorderly traffic was gridlocked for the entire day. The situation alarmed thousands of high school students appearing for their final examinations.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi