Protests by Indian farmers against three new farm bills passed by the government have recently crossed hundred days. Among the bills' several contentious clauses, farmers are most worried about the withdrawal of a minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce. They are afraid private players will offer low prices in the absence of a regulatory mechanism, pushing many of them out of farming and eventually leading to corporate takeover of agriculture.
The anger is particularly strong in the state of Punjab, where farmers largely grow food for the rest of the country and have benefited from the MSP regime. Farmer protests in the state started way back in October, but when the Central government paid no heed, hundreds of thousands of farmers set off on their tractors to Delhi.
They were met with force by the police, who set up barricades, dug up trenches on highways to stop them from proceeding further, fired tear gas shells and deployed water cannons at the state borders. The farmers have now blocked the highways at these sites, with thousands of tractors parked at Delhi's borders at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur. It is believed that no less than 150,000 farmers are currently camped at these sites; the blockades at Singhu and Tikri are over 15km long.
Farmers attend a meeting at the protest site in Singhu outside Delhi. December 08, 2020.
Police in riot gear on the Delhi-Jaipur highway on the day farmers from Rajasthan announced they were joining the protests and going to block the highway. December 12, 2020.
Farmers remove police barricades put up on one of the roads that lead to the protest site at Singhu. December 08, 2020.
Farmers under a makeshift tent propped up between tractor trailers at the Tikri protest site. While the farmers protesting at Singhu come from the wealthier Majha and Doaba regions of Punjab, the ones at Tikri come from the infertile Malwa, which also records most of Punjab’s farmer suicides. The farmers here have smaller landholdings, or are even landless. December 14, 2020.
Women farmers take out a march raising slogans at Singhu. December 10, 2020.
A group of protestors who have just arrived from Punjab watch from the top of their bus as it makes its way past tractors at Singhu. December 08, 2020.
Farmers record and livestream a song recital by Jasbir Singh Dhillon, 65, who also wrote the lines and set tune to them, about the farming crisis in Punjab. Singhu protest site, December 09, 2020.
A sign warns Godi Media – lapdog media, a reference to the TV channels seen as supporters of the Narendra Modi government. Many journalists from these media houses have dubbed the protesting farmers “terrorists”, a reference to the Khalistani separatist movement that was active in the state in the 80s and early 90s. December 10, 2020.
A group of young farmers raise slogans in the night at Singhu. December 08, 2020.
Police guard Haryana’s border with Rajasthan in a bid to prevent Rajasthan farmers from marching towards Delhi. December 12, 2020.
Banwari Kudi, extreme left, the first farmer from Rajasthan to reach the border with Haryana, sits down in protest as the police stop him from proceeding towards Delhi. December 12, 2020.
A protestor makes a speech from the stage at the Ghazipur protest site. December 13, 2020.
A group of protestors go around shouting slogans from atop their tractor at Singhu. December 08, 2020.
Farmers attend a morning prayer session at Singhu. December 09, 2020.
Protesting farmers in their tractor trollies at Singhu. December 10, 2020.
One of the dozens of langars at the site- a communal kitchen that is an essential part of the Sikh religion, offers free tea and snacks to protestors in the morning. December 09, 2020.
Technicians hired by the police install surveillance cameras at the Ghazipur protest site. December 13, 2020.
Blistered feet of Raju, a 50-year-old farmer from Karwada in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, which he said was caused by walking long distances during the protests everyday at Ghazipur. December 13, 2020.
A farmer rests in his tractor trolley in the evening. December 09, 2020.
A film based on the sons of a Sikh Guru is screened at the protest site on the highway at Singhu. December 09, 2020.
Farmers read the papers in their tractor trolley at Singhu. December 10, 2020.
Pradeep Jha, a 28-year-old Youtuber, does an explainer from the protest site at Ghazipur border, where farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand occupied part of an expressway. December 13, 2020.
Protesting farmers take selfies with Punjabi singer Kanwar Garewal at Tikri. The protests have received a great deal of support from singers and artists from the region, and the anger against the Farm Bills is being channelled through music. Ailaan, one of Grewals’s songs that went on to become protest anthems, was later taken down by Youtube, prompting complaints of yielding to pressure from the government. December 14, 2020.
Farmers from Punjab and the neighbouring Haryana, where Singhu is located, share a hookah at the protest site. December 10, 2020.
Volunteers chop vegetables in preparation for dinner at a langar at Singhu. December 09, 2020.
Farmers from Rohtak in Haryana send 2000 litres each of milk, buttermilk and essential supplies to protesting farmers at Tikri. December 14, 2020.
Farmers rest between two tractor trollies on the highway at Singhu. December 08, 2020.
Farmers who have just arrived by train from Punjab cross the tracks toward the protest site at Tikri. Every day, a certain number of farmers head back to the village to tend to their fields or for some other work at home, and the same number of people from each village take their place at the protest site. December 16, 2020.