Farmers in India vowed on Monday to intensify their months-long protest against laws aimed at liberalizing agriculture as tension flared a day after eight people were killed in clashes between growers and ruling party supporters.
Four of the eight were killed when a car linked to a senior ruling party official crashed into protesters in Uttar Pradesh State, protest leaders said.
According to Press TV, police said they were investigating the crash and had registered a case against 13 people including a son of a Minister of State in the Interior Ministry, Ajay Kumar Mishra.
An alliance of protest groups called in a petition to President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday for a court-supervised investigation of the violence.
“We’ll intensify our agitation in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country to highlight the plight of innocent farmers,” Dharmendra Malik, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, told Reuters.
“The government might try to discredit the 10-month-long movement, but we will remain peaceful in our struggle,” Malik said.
The legislation the farmers object to, introduced in September last year, deregulates the sector, allowing farmers to sell produce to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets, where growers are assured of a minimum price.
Small farmers say the changes make them vulnerable to competition from big business, and that they could eventually lose price supports for staples such as wheat and rice.
The government says reform of the sector, which accounts for about 15% of the $2.7 trillion economy, mean new opportunities and better prices for farmers.
Farmers say the car that crashed into the protesters was owned by a son of junior Home Minister Mishra.
Mishra said his son was not present at the incident but a car driven by “our driver” lost control and hit the farmers after they threw stones at the car and attacked it with sticks and sword.