Protesting Indian farmers clash with police for a second day as they march toward the capital


NEW DELHI (AP) — Protesting Indian farmers clashed with police for a second consecutive day on Wednesday as tens of thousands tried to march to the capital to demand guaranteed prices for their produce.

Police fired tear gas at the farmers near the Shambhu border, which divides northern Punjab and Haryana states, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from New Delhi. TV images also showed police using drones to drop tear gas canisters on the farmers, who tried to break through barricades made of cement blocks and barbed wires.

Tens of thousands of farmers, traveling on trucks and wagons loaded with food and other supplies, began marching toward the capital on Tuesday after talks between farm leaders and government ministers failed to produce any consensus on their key demand for legislation guaranteeing a minimum support price for their produce.

The farmers are also pressing the government to follow through on its promise to double their income, waive their loans and withdraw legal cases brought against them during earlier 2021 protests, when they camped on the capital’s outskirts to demonstrate against controversial agriculture laws. Prime Minister Narendra Modi later withdrew the laws in a rare retreat and promised to find ways to ensure minimum support prices for all farm produce.

Some farmer and trade unions have announced a countrywide rural strike on Friday.

“We don’t want the government to say that farmers were being invited for talks but they are not coming. So we said that we are ready to have a discussion,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, a leader of one of the farmer groups, told reporters.

Police in riot gear maintained tight security at multiple entry points into New Delhi to prevent the farmers from entering the capital. They blocked major highways with barriers made of giant metal containers, barbed wire, spikes and cement blocks. Mobile internet was suspended for a second day in some areas of Haryana to prevent communication among the protesters.

The march comes just months before a national election in which Modi is widely expected to win a third term. The protests could pose a significant challenge for him and his governing Bharatiya Janata Party because farmers form a key voting bloc.

The farmers have received support from opposition parties, which have condemned the government’s attempt to block them from reaching the capital.

On Tuesday, the main opposition Congress party said it would pass legislation providing minimum support prices if it is voted into power in the upcoming national election.

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