Some 5,000 farmers were allowed to enter New Delhi on Friday for a peaceful protest under police escort. Tensions remained high, with clashes between demonstrators and police continuing elsewhere in India.

Farmers across India are taking part in demonstrations against agricultural reforms. They fear that new rules of sale, storage and pricing — first introduced in September – will strip small growers of bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of big business.

The ‘Dilli Chalo’ (On to Delhi) march was meant to bring the protest to the capital, but it was met with barricades, tear gas and water cannon. Police say the mass demonstrations pose a serious health risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Farmers protest against at Singhu border near Delhi, India. ©REUTERS / Anushree Fadnavis

On Friday, the protesters scored a small victory after New Delhi police allowed some 5,000 of them to gather at Nirankari Ground, a large field in the north-west of the capital, a much larger number are reportedly still on their way, their progress stalled by barricades and security forces.

Earlier in the day, the police asked the New Delhi government to temporarily convert nine stadiums in the city into jails, where they could keep arrested activists. The petition was rejected.

Meanwhile clashes between farmers and police continue elsewhere in India. Protesters attempted to dismantle barriers at the Haryana-Delhi border and built a barricade at the Delhi-Bahadurgarh highway.

Water cannon and tear gas were also used at an inter-state border with Punjab. The governments of the two states have opposing attitudes towards the march, despite both having large agricultural sectors.

Punjab’s Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh welcomed the decision to allow protesters into the capital, while taking a jab at the Haryana authorities.

His counterpart, Manohar Lal Khattar, earlier accused Singh of spreading “lies, deception and propaganda” to fuel the protest.

Also on

Farmers run as police fire tear gas shells near Ambala, India, November 26, 2020 © REUTERS/Stringer
Farmers hit with water cannon and tear gas as Indian police try to halt protest march on Delhi (VIDEO)

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