Indian farmers celebrate victory as Modi repeals controversial laws

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Celebrations and prayers ring out at the Singhu border where farmers and their supporters held a victory march today.

It’s been more than a year of protests against three farm laws, led by people from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Not allowed to enter the national capital, they laid siege on some of the border points of Delhi.

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The protests have been credited for inspiring people from other countries

They have fought a long, hard, unwavering and unrelenting battle against a powerful government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Why are the farmers in India protesting?

Speaking to Sky News, Harpreet Singh Sandhu, a farmer from Punjab, said: “This is a victory of patience over oppression.

“Our autocratic leader was trying to suppress us but our community and our farmer brothers came together have sent a message to this repressive government that we will not be crushed.”

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Amarjeet Singh, 71, from Punjab tells us he’s never seen such a protest in his life.

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Protestors have fought a long, hard unwavering and unrelenting battle against the government

“It’s been a very long struggle. This victory has been, is and will forever be very most important for us.”

The victory procession is led by the Nihangs, an armed Sikh warrior order riding their horses and displaying their martial arts.

The convoy of tractors, cars, and trucks with blaring music and devotional songs snake past the once tented city that had sprung up.

For more than a year the national highway at the Singhu border was converted into a small township.

Farmers are now dismantling their semi-permanent structures and collecting their belongings on tractor trollies and trucks.

Divender from Hoshiarpur in Punjab said: “I feel sad leaving this place, we fought hard, made friends and relations and even lost some of our own.

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Protesters fought against three laws which have now been repealed by the Indian government

“But we won, that’s all that matters.”

In a televised address to the nation on 19 November, Prime Minister Modi said: “While I apologise to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking in our dedication that we could not explain the truth, which is clear as light to some of our farmer brothers.

“Today I want to tell the country that we have decided to repeal the three farm laws.”

Farmers say the laws will bring in the private sector, deregulate crop pricing, and reduce farmers’ earnings by dismantling the system that guarantees them an income – leaving them vulnerable to large private companies.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation during Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in Delhi, India, August 15, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised to the nation

The government argues the laws will abolish middlemen and improve farmers’ incomes as they will have a wider market to sell to.

Agricultural reforms are desperately needed in the country.

But the way Prime Minister Modi and his government rushed these laws in parliament during a pandemic was not deemed acceptable by a large number of the farming community.

However, it was pressure of electoral politics that forced the government to compromise.

Harpreet added: “The government is not scared, but they compromised and relented because they are being hurt politically.

People celebrating the victory
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People celebrating the victory, described as one of ‘patience over oppression’

“They lost seats in some elections. In Uttar Pradesh they will have elections soon and they know they are losing due to this. This is why they have accepted our demands.”

According to the farmer unions more than 730 people have lost their lives in the protests and now demand compensation from the government.

Dr Inder from Jalandhar says this protest “has raised the hopes of ordinary people when anti-people policies were brought in by Modi.”

“In spite of the coronavirus farmers came out thousands and they have united the people along caste state and religion,” Dr Inder said, adding: “It has inspired farmers from other countries”.