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9 are dead after farmers protest in India

NEW DELHI

Indian authorities suspended internet services and barred political leaders from getting into a northern city Monday to calm tensions after 9 people have been killed in a deadly escalation of a yearlong demonstration in opposition to contentious agriculture laws.

Four farmers died Sunday when a vehicle owned by Junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra ran over protesting farmers in the Uttar Pradesh town of Lakhimpur Kheri, officers and farm leaders said.

Mishra said his driver and three members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party who have been in the vehicle have been all killed by the protesters in the violence that broke out after the incident.

“They have been beaten to death by the farmers,” Mishra said in a statement.

Farm leaders alleged that Mishra’s son was once in the vehicle when it ran over the protesters, but Mishra denied it.

Police on Monday said they had so far arrested six people and filed a crook complaint against 14 more, inclusive of the minister’s son, in connection with the deaths of the 4 farmers. The BJP also lodged a criminal complaint against the farmers over the deaths of its members and the vehicle driver, said Arvind Chaurasia, a senior official in charge of the district.

Police also said they recovered the body of a local journalist from the spot where violence ensued Sunday but did now not provide further details on how he was killed.

The violence marked an escalation in ongoing protests against agriculture laws that farmers say will shatter their livelihoods. The protests have lasted because the government exceeded the laws last September and have been one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last week, thousands of farmers gathered at the edges of the capital New Delhi to mark one year of demonstrations. The government says the adjustments in the laws have been needed to modernize agriculture and boost production via private investment. But the farmers say the laws will devastate their earnings via ending guaranteed pricing and will pressure them to sell their crops to corporations at cheaper prices.

Police officer Arun Kumar Singh told that all colleges have been shut in the district and people have been advised to stay indoors following the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Uttar Pradesh’s capital, Lucknow.

Authorities also barred leaders from various opposition events from getting into the district to meet the farmers amid issues it should cause the further disorder.

Senior police professional Prashant Kumar said the administration would provide monetary compensation to the families of the deceased farmers and also set up a judicial inquiry to probe the violence. Farm leaders, however, demand a motion against the minister and his son, saying Mishra should be eliminated from office.

The deaths have led to more anger amongst farmers who rallied in a couple of states, strengthening their protests. Opposition Congress Party also held a protest in New Delhi, where a number of party individuals scuffled with police and have been later detained.

The protests are shaping up as a challenge to Modi’s BJP during its reelection bid early next year in Uttar Pradesh, which is regarded as India’s political bellwether state.

The rallies have been mostly peaceful, though clashes in January left one protester dead and hundreds injured after demonstrators broke via police barricades to storm a historical fort in Delhi.

Thousands of farmers have camped for nearly a year on the outskirts of New Delhi, and more than a dozen rounds of talks between the government and the farmers have failed to get to the bottom of the issues.

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