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Protesting Indian farmers vow to amass more supporters outside capital Delhi

Danish Siddiqui
·2 min read

By Danish Siddiqui

BARNALA, India, Feb 21 (Reuters) - More than 100,000 farmersand farm workers gathered in India's northern Punjab state onSunday in a show of strength against new farm laws, where unionleaders called on supporters to amass outside the capital NewDelhi on Feb. 27.

Tens of thousands of Indian growers have already been campedoutside Delhi for nearly three months, demanding the repeal ofthe three reform laws that they say will hurt them and benefitlarge corporations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which introducedthe laws last September, has offered to defer the laws butrefused to abandon them, arguing that legislation will helpfarmers get better prices.

Both sides have met for several rounds of negotiations butfailed to make any headway, and farmers' unions have vowed tocarry on the protests until the laws are rolled back.

At Sunday's rally at a grain market in Barnala, a town inPunjab, union leaders outlined plans to mobilise farmers andfarm workers from across the northern state and move to aprotest site outside Delhi later this month.

"We came here to make Punjab's farmers aware of the movementin Delhi. We came to tell them what's happening there and whatwill happen next," prominent farmer leader Joginder Ugrahan toldReuters.

A sea of supporters, including tens of thousands of women,began gathering in Barnala early in the day, riding in on buses,tractors, trailers and cars. Local police estimated a crowd ofbetween 120,000 and 130,000 eventually gathered, comprising oneof the largest rallies against the laws.

Baljinder Singh, a 52-year-old farmer, said he had travelled30 kms (18.6 miles) to attend the rally. "Our objective is thatthe black laws enacted by the Modi government are repealed,"Singh said, tightly grasping a flag of a farmers' union.

In New Delhi, a senior official from Modi's ruling BharatiyaJanata Party blamed opposition parties for attempting to prolongthe agitation but said the government was open for furthertalks.(Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; editing by EmeliaSithole-Matarise)