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India farmers return to protest camps after clashes

NEW DELHI

Protesting farmers in India have returned to border areas, a day after the capital witnessed violent clashes, to continue their demonstrations “peacefully.”

Thousands are encamped on the outskirts of Delhi since November against three new agricultural laws meant to liberalize the agriculture sector. But farmers claim the new rules will threaten their livelihoods.

Police had granted the permission to hold a rally on designated routes on Republic Day, which marks the anniversary of India officially adopting its Constitution on Jan. 26, 1950.

But many diverted from the set route, breached security and managed to enter the Red Fort. They also hoisted the holy flag of the Sikh faith on the fort’s dome.

Footages showed police baton-charged and fired tear gas to hold them back. At least one farmer died, and police claim 86 of their personnel were injured. Cases have been registered against violators.

The protesting farmers also plan a march to parliament on Feb. 1, when India’s budget session will start.

Several rounds of talks with the government have failed, and farmer leaders insist on a total repeal of the laws.

“We have condemned whatever happened yesterday. Our movement will continue peacefully until laws are repealed by the government,” Rakesh Tikait, a senior member of the Indian Farmers’ Union, told.

Sukhdev Singh Kokri, another union leader, said the riots were a conspiracy to defame them “but our peaceful struggle will continue.”

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (United Farmers Front), a coalition of farmer unions, had called off the “tractor rally,” asking the farmers to return to the protesting sites. A group meeting is scheduled later in the day. Police are also expected to brief the media.

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