Tens of thousands of farmers rolled into India’s capital Tuesday on tractors festooned with Indian flags, one of the biggest protests in New Delhi. They’re demanding the repeal of three agriculture laws passed by Modi’s government in September that aim to deregulate wholesale produce markets. About two-thirds of Indians work in agriculture, in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Solidarity rallies have erupted across India. Tuesday’s violence happened on Republic Day, a national holiday. Farm unions had obtained permits for their tractor brigade, which was supposed to be held after the military parade. But some tractors deviated from the convoy route agreed upon with the government and broke through police barriers early. Violence erupted. Police used tear gas and batons against protesters. Fierce battles broke out across the city. Reports indicate that at least 19 people involved in the clashes were sent to two New Delhi hospitals. At the same time at least 86 officers were also injured.
The farmers also entered New Delhi’s historic Red Fort and raised the Nishan Sahib, a flag of importance to India’s Sikh communities. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who represents Punjab, where many of the farmers are from, wrote on Twitter that the violence was “unacceptable” and urged “all genuine farmers to vacate Delhi and return to the borders.” The Indian government has offered to suspend the laws for 18 months. However, the farmers unions have refused to end their protest.