Indian opposition blames government for protest violence

Special Indian opposition blames government for protest violence
A farmer protests new laws introduced by the government, at the historic Red Fort in Delhi, India, January 26, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Indian opposition blames government for protest violence

Indian opposition blames government for protest violence
  • A rally in New Delhi turned violent as clashes broke out between the police and protesting farmers
  • Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi to protest over controversial farm laws

NEW DELHI: Sixteen Indian opposition parties on Thursday accused the government of orchestrating violence that left one person dead and hundreds injured during a farmers’ protest earlier this week. 

A protest march in New Delhi by thousands of farmers demanding the repeal of three controversial farm laws turned violent on India’s Republic Day on Tuesday as clashes broke out between the police and protesters.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of the national capital for more than two months to protest against the laws passed in September, which they say leave them at the mercy of corporations.

“We believe that an impartial investigation will reveal the central government’s nefarious role in orchestrating those events,” the opposition parties said in a joint statement.

The 16 parties include the main opposition Congress party and important regional players such as Samajwadi Party from Uttar Pradesh, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) from Bihar and All India Trinamool Congress from Bengal, as well as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) from Tamil Nadu and Shiv Sena, the ruling party of Maharashtra.

They blamed New Delhi for “discrediting a legitimate mass movement through a government-sponsored disinformation campaign” as they demanded that the “anti-farmer laws” be repealed.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused Congress of stirring up “agitating farmers.”

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters on Wednesday that the Congress “wants to provoke violence, provoke the police to take harsh action, to create instability.”

The government has held 10 rounds of talks with the protesters and has offered to suspend the new laws for 18 months to reach an agreement. The farmers have rejected the proposal, calling for the laws be revoked altogether.

“No matter what tactics the government employs we are not going to end the agitation till the laws are withdrawn,” Sunil Pradhan of the Tikait faction of Indian Farmers’ Union told Arab News.

Following Tuesday’s violent clashes, however, two farmer groups have withdrawn from the protest. A planned protest march to the parliament scheduled for Monday has also been cancelled. The government has filed cases against 25 farmer leaders.

Political analysts say that the violent clashes have further widened a trust deficit between the government and protesters.

“The differences between the government and the farmers have only grown and I don’t see any move forward toward resolution in near future,” Delhi-based political analyst Maneesh Chibber said.

He added that the farmers are convinced that the government “has had a hand in provoking chaos on Tuesday.”

“It will require deft handling from both sides if they want to do something concrete,” he said, “Initially New Delhi’s strategy was to tire out the farmers but I don’t think this is going to work with farmers.”