Timeline: Indian farmers’ protests against agricultural laws


Farmers in India have protested for over a year over laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow farmers to sell produce directly to bulk buyers and make contract farming easier.

Here is a timeline of events around the passing of the laws and the escalating protests:

June 2020: Three emergency executive orders are introduced, which Modi’s cabinet says are aimed at giving farmers the freedom to sell directly to institutional buyers such as big trading houses, large retailers, and food processors.

Sept. 17: India’s lower house of parliament passes the orders. India’s food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigns, calling the legislation anti-farmer.

Sept. 18: Modi defends the new legislation, saying it will unshackle millions of farmers and help them get better prices.

Sept. 20: India’s parliament passes the bills, despite growing protest from opposition parties, who say farmers’ bargaining power will be diminished.

Sept. 24: Farmers from some of India’s big northern heartland states – key producers of wheat and rice – block railway tracks. Bigger demonstrations are held across the country the next day, with growers blocking highways leading to the capital New Delhi with trucks, tractors, and combine harvesters.

Nov. 30: Modi resists calls to repeal the laws, dismissing as misplaced fears the government will eventually abolish the wholesale markets.

Dec. 1: In talks lasting several hours, ministers and representatives of the protesting farmers fail to break a deadlock over the farm laws. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks of the protests in a video message, saying his government had reached out to Indian authorities. In response, India’s foreign ministry said Canadian leaders were ill-informed.

Dec. 7: Thousands protest and block traffic converge on the Indian embassy and march around Trafalgar Square area in central London over the Indian reforms. Police arrest 13 over breaches of COVID regulations.

Dec. 8: Protests spread across India, as farm organizations call for a nationwide strike after inconclusive talks with the government.

Dec. 16: A 65-year-old Sikh priest commits suicide at one of the protest sites.

Dec. 17: The protests expand to the Sikh diaspora, with 250 to 300 Sikhs and other Indians taking part in a rally in Melbourne. Protests take place over a few days in nearly 50 different cities around the world.

Dec. 21: Farmers’ leaders begin a 24-hour relay hunger strike. More than 30 protesters camping out in the open on key national highways have died, mainly due to the cold with temperatures falling to 4 degrees Celsius, farmer leaders said.

Jan. 12, 2021: India’s Supreme Court orders an indefinite stay on the implementation of the new agricultural laws, saying it wanted to protect farmers and would hear their objections.

Jan. 26: Farmers overwhelm police and storm into New Delhi’s historic Red Fort complex after tearing down barricades and driving tractors through roadblocks. Police fire tear gas in an unsuccessful bid to force the protesters back. One protester was killed, a witness said, and Delhi police said 86 officers had been injured across the city.

Feb. 2: Singer Rihanna tweets using the hashtag #FarmersProtest, saying: “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” Others follow, including Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris, niece of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. India’s foreign ministry slams the comments, urging a proper understanding of the issues at hand.

Feb. 15: Politicians and activists condemn the arrest of Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate campaigner accused of sedition for helping edit an online document Sweden’s Greta Thunberg had promoted in support of the protesting farmers. She is later granted bail, a court saying there was “scanty and sketchy evidence” of sedition in her efforts.

July 22: Farmers start a sit-in at Jantar Mantar, a large Mughal-era observatory near parliament in New Delhi, renewing a push for the repeal.

Sept. 5: More than 500,000 farmers gather in Uttar Pradesh state, the biggest rally yet in a months-long series of demonstrations.

Nov. 19: Modi says he will repeal the controversial laws farmers have protested against for over a year.


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