Indian farmers in no mood to forgive despite Modi’s turnaround on reforms

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MOHRANIYA, India, November 19 (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have bowed to farmers’ demands to repeal laws they say threaten their livelihoods.

But the reaction to the shock turnaround in rural northern India, where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party faces key elections next year, has been less than positive, a worrying sign for a leader. which seeks to maintain its grip on national politics.

In the village of Mohraniya, some 500 km by road east of the capital New Delhi and located in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, farmer Guru Sevak Singh said he and others like him had lost confidence in Modi and his party.

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“Today Prime Minister Modi realized he was making a mistake, but it took him a year to recognize it and only because he now knows that farmers will never vote for his party again.” , Singh said.

For the young farmer, the affair is deeply personal.

Singh’s brother, Guruvinder, 19, was killed in October when a car drove into a crowd protesting against farm laws, one of eight people who died in a wave of violence linked to the farmers’ uprising .

Thousands of farm workers demonstrated outside the capital New Delhi and beyond for more than a year, ignoring the pandemic to disrupt traffic and put pressure on Modi and the BJP who say the new laws were essential to modernize the sector .

“Today I can report that my brother is a martyr,” Singh told Reuters, crying as he held a photo of his deceased brother.

“My brother is one of those brave farmers who sacrificed their lives to prove that the government was implementing laws aimed at destroying the agrarian economy,” he added.

Around him were several policemen, which Singh said were provided after his brother and three other people were killed by the car. Ashish Mishra, son of Deputy Home Secretary Ajay, is in police custody in connection with the incident.

Ajay Mishra Teni said at the time that her son was not at the site and that a car driven by “our driver” lost control and hit farmers after “infidels” bombarded her with stones and attacked her with sticks and swords.

” HOW TO FORGET ? “

In 2020, Modi’s government passed three agricultural laws with the aim of reforming the agricultural sector which employs around 60% of India’s workforce but is deeply inefficient, indebted and prone to price wars.

Angry farmers took to the streets, claiming the reforms put their jobs at risk and handed control of crops and prices to private companies.

The resulting protest movement has become one of the largest and most protracted in the country.

Leaders of six farmers’ unions who have led the movement in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab states have said they will not forgive a government that has branded protesting farmers as terrorists and anti-nationals.

“Farmers have been beaten with sticks, sticks and detained for claiming legitimate rights… farmers have been mowed down by a high speed car belonging to a minister’s family… tell me how can we do it all? to forget ? Said Sudhakar Rai, a senior member of a farmers’ union in Uttar Pradesh.

Rai said at least 170 farmers have been killed in protests against the farm law across the country. There is no official data to verify his claims.

A senior BJP member who declined to be named said the decision to repeal the laws was made by Modi after consulting with a large farmers’ association affiliated with his party.

The politician, who was present at the meeting when the party agreed to back down, said those present acknowledged that the BJP had not communicated clearly enough the benefits of the new laws.

Opposition leaders and some analysts said Modi’s decision was tied to next year’s national elections in Uttar Pradesh – which has more parliamentary seats than any other state – and the Punjab.

“What cannot be achieved through democratic protests can be achieved through fear of impending elections!” P. Chidambaram, senior official of the opposition Congress party, wrote on Twitter.

But farmers like Singh have warned the government could pay a price for its treatment of farmers.

“We are the backbone of the country and Modi has today accepted that his policy is against farmers,” Singh said. “I lost my brother in this mess and no one can bring him back.”

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Additional reporting and writing by Rupam Jain in Mumbai; Editing by Mike Collett-White

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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