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Indian farmers protesting pledge to rally more supporters outside the capital Delhi




BARNALA, India (Reuters) – More than 100,000 farmers and farm workers gathered in the north Indian state of Punjab on Sunday to show their strength against new farm laws, where union leaders called on their supporters to rally to the outside the capital New Delhi on February 27.

Tens of thousands of Indian producers have already camped outside Delhi for nearly three months, demanding the repeal of three reform laws that they say will hurt them and benefit big business.

Prime Minister Narendra Modis’ government, which introduced the laws last September, offered to postpone the laws but refused to abandon them, arguing that the legislation will help farmers get better prices.

The two sides met for several rounds of negotiations, but failed to make progress, and the farmers’ unions pledged to continue the protests until the laws were overturned.

At a Sunday rally at a grain market in Barnala, a town in the Punjab, union leaders presented plans to mobilize farmers and farm workers across the northern state and move to a protest site outside Delhi later this month.

We have come here to inform the Punjab farmers about the movement in Delhi. We came to tell them what is going on there and what will happen next, prominent peasant leader Joginder Ugrahan told Reuters.

A sea of ​​supporters, including tens of thousands of women, began to gather in Barnala early in the day, aboard buses, tractors, trailers and cars. Local police estimated that a crowd of 120,000 to 130,000 people eventually gathered, constituting one of the largest rallies against the laws.

Baljinder Singh, a 52-year-old farmer, said he traveled 30 km (18.6 miles) to attend the rally. Our goal is for the black laws enacted by the Modi government to be repealed, Singh said, firmly holding the flag of a farmers union.

In New Delhi, a senior official with the ruling Bharatiya Janata party in Modis accused opposition parties of trying to prolong the unrest, but said the government was open to further discussions.

Written by Devjyot Ghoshal; edited by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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