Indian Farmers Pause March to Delhi After Protester’s Death

New Delhi — Indian farmers paused their protest march for two days after clashes with police left one protester dead, the protest leaders said Wednesday.

Indian police used tear gas and water cannons earlier Wednesday to disperse thousands of protesting farmers as they attempted to resume a march to the capital, New Delhi, after negotiations with the government failed to resolve a deadlock over their demands for guaranteed crop prices.  

A young farmer, Subhkaran Singh, 21, died of what appeared to be a bullet wound to his head. He arrived at a local hospital with two other protesters, who also appeared to have bullet wounds. They are in stable condition.

Farmers’ leader Sarwan Singh Pandher told reporters one person had been killed and others injured, but Haryana state police denied anyone died. 


It is the second time the police used tear gas to thwart attempts by farmers to reach Delhi since they launched their protest on Feb. 13.  

Farmers mounted on tractors came equipped with masks and gloves to protect themselves from the tear gas at Shambhu, about 200 kilometers from Delhi, where thousands have gathered. 

Some had also brought bulldozers and excavators to dismantle barricades erected along highways, but hundreds of security personnel lined both sides of the highway and prevented them from moving ahead. Using loudspeakers, farm leaders urged them to fight for their rights.

Local media showed police using water cannons at farmers at another protest site.

Highways leading to Delhi have been heavily barricaded with concrete blocks, barbed wire and iron spikes to prevent the farmers from laying siege to key roads on the capital’s outskirts as they did during a yearlong mass protest in 2021.

The farmers’ leaders have urged the government to let them enter the capital.

“We will remain peaceful, but we should be allowed to remove these barriers and march towards Delhi,” Pandher told reporters.

Farmers launched their protest last week, accusing the government of failing to meet some promises it made when they called off the protest two years ago.

Four rounds of talks in recent days have failed to break an impasse over their key demand for legislation that would guarantee prices for all crops. The farmers say that would buffer them from market fluctuations and help improve their incomes. 

Currently, the government announces subsidized prices for about two dozen agricultural products each year and buys some crops, such as rice and wheat, at guaranteed prices — a system that began in the 1960s to encourage farmers to sow food grains at a time when India faced severe shortages. 

At the last round of talks, which broke down on Monday, the government had offered to extend price guarantees to some more crops such as pulses, maize and cotton, but that failed to satisfy the farmers.

The government is urging the farmers to continue negotiations.

“After the fourth round, the government is ready to discuss all the issues,” Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda posted on X. “I again invite the farmer leaders for discussion. It is important for us to maintain peace.”

Farmers in India complain of stagnant or dwindling incomes, saying that crop prices have failed to keep pace with rising costs of inputs such as fertilizers and seeds. More than two-thirds of the country is dependent on farm incomes.

The protest is being held months before India holds national elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is widely seen as winning a third term in office.

Political analysts said the government is using heavy security to prevent the farmers from reaching the capital because images of tens of thousands of farmers sitting around the capital were “bad optics.”

“If farmers reach the capital, they would get much more media attention just as they did during the last protest in 2021,” political analyst Rasheed Kidwai explained. “Anything happening around Delhi becomes magnified. That is why the government wants to control the protest away from the city.” 

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