Protesting Indian farmers begin hunger strike after week of clashes

NEW DELHI – Indian farmers went on a day-long hunger strike on Saturday to protest new agricultural laws after a week of clashing with authorities, leaving one dead and hundreds injured.

Tens of thousands of farmers, angry at what they see as laws that benefit large private buyers at the expense of producers, have been encamping at protest venues on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi for over two months.

A planned tractor parade on Tuesday of the Republic turned violent when some protesters deviated from pre-arranged routes, demolished barricades and clashed with police, who used tear gas to hold them back.

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The peasant leaders said Saturday’s hunger strike would coincide with the death of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and show Indians that the protesters were largely peaceful.

“The peasant movement has been and will be peaceful,” said Darshan Pal, a leader of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha group of farm unions that organized the protests.

“The January 30th events are organized to spread the values ​​of truth and non-violence.”

Sporadic clashes between protesters, police and groups shouting anti-peasant slogans have broken out several times this week.

Agriculture employs roughly half of India’s 1.3 billion people, and unrest among an estimated 150 million farmers has been one of the biggest challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced since it came to power in 2014.

Eleven rounds of talks between the trade unions and the government failed to break the impasse.

The government has offered to put the laws on hold for 18 months, but farmers say they won’t end their protests for less than a complete repeal.

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