Indian farmers pause huge protest march

Indian farmers pause huge protest march

Organisers hope weekend talks with government will help address grievances over crop prices

Tractors and other vehicles belonging to farmers marching towards New Delhi are parked on a national highway at Shambhu, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana states on Thursday. (Photo: Reuters)
Tractors and other vehicles belonging to farmers marching towards New Delhi are parked on a national highway at Shambhu, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana states on Thursday. (Photo: Reuters)

AMBALA, India - Indian farmers demanding higher prices for their crops said they had paused a major protest march to New Delhi on Friday until their unions hold another round of talks with government ministers on Sunday.

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, who met farmers’ representatives late Thursday along with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and deputy interior minister Nityanand Rai, told reporters the talks were “positive”, adding: “We believe we will all find a solution together peacefully.”

Movement leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal also said the farmers would hold off their march for now.

“When the meetings have started, if we move forward (towards Delhi) then how will meetings happen?” Dallewal said, adding that the protest “will continue peacefully”.

Thousands of farmers had embarked on the “Delhi Chalo”, or “Let’s go to Delhi” march earlier this week to press the government to set a minimum price for their produce, but they were stopped by security forces about 200 kilometres away from the capital, triggering clashes.

Union leaders said a 63-year-old farmer, who was among those camped at the site, died of a heart attack early on Friday. A state police officer said they had received information about a farmer’s death and are looking into it.

The protests have erupted a few months before India is due to hold national elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third term. Farmers are an influential voting bloc.

The farmers remained camped on the border between Punjab and Haryana states on Friday. Security forces have used concrete and metal barricades, as well as drones carrying tear gas canisters, to stop them for advancing.

The protest comes two years after Modi’s government, following a similar protest movement, repealed some farm laws and promised to find ways to ensure support prices for all produce.

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