Thousands of protesting farmers, braving police baton charge and teargas volleys, broke through barricades and occupied Delhi’s iconic Red Fort earlier today.
The farmers’ heightened protest coincided with celebration of India’s Republic Day.
Marked by military parade and other festivities, this year’s celebrations were much subdued due to the raging pandemic.
Farmers have been protesting since November against Farm reform laws they have dubbed black laws.
For weeks, farmers and their families have camped out in the open outside Delhi in bitter cold weather and have blocked several highways leading into the capital city.
They demand repeal of these black laws that were enacted last September without even consulting the farmers.
Today (January 26) on foot and riding tractors, the huge famers’ rally pushed its way into Red Fort.
Police hat set up metal barricades but the farmers were able to push through them.
“One protester died and more than 80 police officers were injured,” according to a report by the BBC.
“We came here to deliver a message to the Modi government; our job is done. We will go back now,” one protesting farmer told NDTV, a pro-government mouthpiece.
While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents himself as the “people’s man”, he has done everything since coming to power in 2014 to pander to major corporations.
The Farm bill is a prime example.
It will remove all protections, especially stable prices that farmers had enjoyed for decades.
Under the so-called reformed laws, big corporations will now determine prices.
The farmers say this will further impoverish them.
Already farmers suffer at the hands of loan shark that charge exorbitant interest rates on loans.
Each year, thousands of farmers commit suicide by drinking pesticides because they cannot afford to repay loans.
The National Crime Records Bureau of India reported that a total 296,438 Indian farmers had committed suicide since 1995...
“Agriculture is the largest employer in India, with nearly 50 percent of the country’s workforce employed in it in one form or another,” according to a report by France24 TV.
Most farmers are from the states of Punjab and Haryana, that are predominantly Sikh populated.
If the farmers in these two states—the country’s breadbaskets—do not produce grain, most Indians would starve to death.
Far from appreciating their contribution to feeding the country and preventing starvation, Modi and his henchmen want to appease the corporate thieves.
The farmers’ takeover of Red Fort, though symbolic, has enormous significance.
It is the most iconic monument in Delhi and venue of most important government events.
Like many other monuments in India, the Red Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
He laid the foundation of the city and the fort in 1638 when he relocated his empire’s capital from Agra where he had built the famous Agra Fort.
Upon arriving in 1638, the emperor named the new city Shahjahanabad.
It was later reverted to its old name based on the Delhi Sultanate that had been destroyed by the first Mughal Emperor Babur who came to India in 1526.
India’s world-renowned monument, the Taj Mahal, was also built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The Red Fort in Delhi was declared a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO in 2007.
By taking it over and hoisting their flag on it, India’s farmers have made an important political statement.