India’s Farmer Strikes Continue

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On January 30th, India suspended mobile internet services in three areas around Delhi, the capital, in response to hunger strikes by farmers. The hunger strike was timed to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s anniversary of death.

The farmers protest against the new agriculture laws and have camped on the outskirts of Delhi for over a month. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Mod, defended the reforms. However, unions have referred to the proposed laws as a ‘death warrant.’ The proposed reforms will loosen rules concerning the sale, pricing and storage of produce; many farmers fear this will lead to a concession.

According to the BBC, the government intended to end the shutdown implemented for public safety on the night of January 31st.  The three areas that faced the shutdown are Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri. Protesters reacted angrily to the internet shutdown with reports stating that “it was killing democracy.” Despite claims that the new laws will help farmers, talks between unions and the government failed to bring any change.

Last week, a tractor rally ending in violent crashes left one protester dead and dozens of police injured. Some demonstrators then stormed and occupied Red Fort before police pushed them back. Several journalists face charges of sedition for reporting last week’s protests.

Then on January 29th, a group of men approached the protesting farmers telling them to leave. Furthermore, the farmers contest that the men threw stones at them, injuring several. Police used tear gas and batons to break up the clashes.

On February 1st, Twitter suspended multiple accounts for their controversial tweets over the new farming laws. This increased country-wide agitation. According to the Ministry of Electronics & IT, such accounts were deleted because of their incitement to genocide.

As of 22:03 (IST), the Punjab Cong leaders met to raise concerns of protesters missing since the Red Fort Incident. The government is yet to report anything concerning the matter, despite claims that over 100 people are missing. At time of publishing, police arrested 128 people in connection with the violence on January 26th.

According to Times of India, seven districts surrounding Delhi continue to live under an internet shutdown as well as a suspension of SMS services. The government claim they will lift this at 17:00 (IST) on February 2nd. Police continue to block main roads to New Delhi as the Finance Minister prepares to deliver the government’s annual budget to parliament.

Reports state that a further mass protest will occur on February 6th with a road blockage.

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