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16 Feb, 2024 03:46

Indian farmers deploy kites against police drones

New Delhi has sealed state borders to prevent crowds from entering the capital as tension rises
Indian farmers deploy kites against police drones

Farmers in India, who have been protesting on the outskirts of New Delhi for the past three days demanding reforms to secure price guarantees for their produce, are fending off tear gas shell-launching police drones by ensnaring them with homemade kites. 

Thousands of farmers from several states, including Punjab, Haryana, and nearby Uttar Pradesh, were set to converge on India’s capital to launch large-scale protests but were stopped by police as the government resolved to seal several state borders.

Amid the clampdown, footage of the farmers’ unconventional tactics, reportedly at the border between the agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana, surfaced on X (formerly Twitter). As drones were being used to release tear gas to disperse farmers, according to media reports, some of the protesters flew kites to take down the machines, footage showed. 

Others were seen armed with tennis balls as they continued to wage unconventional warfare against the UAVs, The Hindustan Times reported. On the first day of the protest, farmer groups’ leaders blamed the nation’s central government for the “attack” on protesters marching towards Delhi. They claimed that 60 of the protesters had been injured when police used tear gas shells at the Punjab-Haryana border, according to The Times of India. 

The reports note that while some of the protesters carried wet jute sacks, goggles, and gloves for safety, others purchased body armor for Rs 2,000 ($24) for protection against rubber bullets, which they claimed were fired by police. In another report, The Times of India noted that Delhi Police has placed orders for 30,000 tear gas shells from a state-owned manufacturer. 

The farmers are pressing for a legally guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for their crops as it would give them greater financial security. Other demands include freedom from debt, increased taxes on imported produce, the cancellation of free trade and other agreements concluded via the World Trade Organization, and a ban on foreign direct investment in the agriculture sector.

The leaders of the farmers’ movement held several rounds of talks with Narendra Modi’s government on February 8th, 12th and 15th. So far, the talks have remained inconclusive. The government has made it clear that meeting farmers’ demands on a MSP will not be possible in the immediate future.  

During an interview with PTI news agency on February 13, Union Minister Arjun Munda emphasized that rushing into enacting a law to guarantee minimum prices for crops without consulting all stakeholders would not be feasible. Additionally, he urged protesting farmers to remain vigilant and cautious of certain elements that might seek to exploit their movement for political gains, thereby tarnishing its integrity.

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