NEW DELHI (AP) – Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a high-speed highway on the edge of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws, which they say will destroy their income.
Farmers stood on tractors waving colorful flags as their leaders chanted slogans over a makeshift stage.
Thousands have rallied outside New Delhi since late November to express their anger at three laws passed by parliament last year. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi says laws are needed to modernize agriculture, but farmers say they will be at the mercy of poorer, larger corporations.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or the United Farmers Front, says the blockade will last five hours. “Blocking the road is not our hobby, but the government does not listen to us. What can we do? ”Said band member Satnam Singh.
Farmers were left without delay even after violence erupted on January 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But soon they could have problems.
For 100 days, Carnal Singh lived with the trailer on the huge section of the arterial highway that connects northern India with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was foggy in winter. The city is now preparing for a scorching summer temperature that could reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
But Singh, like many other farmers, is adamant that he intends to stay until the laws are fully enforced.
“We’re not going anywhere, we’re going to fight to the end,” Singh, 60, said Friday as he stood cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck.
The mood at one of the protest sites, on the border with Xinghui, was strong on Friday. Many farmers settled in the area for a long time.
The huge soup kitchens, which feed thousands every day, were still working. Farmers gathered on both sides of the highway, and hundreds of trucks were turned into rooms with water coolers, preparing for the summer. Some trailers also have electric air conditioners and air conditioners.
Farmers say the protests will soon spread across the country. The government, however, hopes many of them will return home when the main Indian harvest season begins later this month.
Karanbir Singh rejected such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbors returning to the villages, would be inclined to farm while he and others continued to complain.
“We will help each other so that no farms come together,” Singh said.
But not all farmers are against the law. Pavan Kumar, an ardent supporter of Modi, a fruit and vegetable grower, said he was ready to give them a chance.
“If it turns out that they (the laws) do not benefit us, we will complain again,” he said. “We will block the roads and increase the protest even more. Then ordinary people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be useful to us, we will keep them. ”
Multiple rounds of negotiations between the government and the “farmers” could not end the deadlock. Farmers have rejected an offer by the government to suspend the laws for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal.
The legislation is not clear whether the government will continue to guarantee the prices of some basic crops. A system introduced in the 1960s to help India protect its food supplies and prevent shortages.
Farmers also fear that legislation will signal that the government is moving away from a system in which the vast majority of farmers sell only to markets that are punished by the government. They worry that it will be left to the mercy of corporations who are no longer entitled to pay their guaranteed price.
Associated Press video journalist Rishab R. Ain it contributed to this report.