Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that he would repeal controversial agriculture laws that led to large farmer protests outside New Delhi since November of last year, The Associated Press reported.
Modi announced the shocking reversal in a televised national address where he urged the protesters to return home.
“While apologizing to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking in our efforts that we could not explain the truth to some of our farmer brothers,” Modi said during the address.
However, farmers have said they will stay put until the laws are gone officially in December when the parliament sits for its winter session, according to PBS.
“Modi projects himself as a bold, determined leader who doesn’t back down. And yet he’s done just that, to a farmer’s movement that his government had maligned for months,” Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Wilson Center, said, per AP.
Protests of the laws, which omitted price guarantees, escalated in November 2020 when farmers set up camps inside the National Capital Region (NCR).
Demonstrators in January stormed the historic Red Fort in the capital’s center, leaving one protester dead and hundreds injured. Dozens of farmers have also died by suicide, poor weather, and COVID-19.
“At last, all of our hard work paid off. … I salute the farmer brothers who were martyred in this battle,” said Rakesh Tikait, a prominent farmers’ leader.
Modi’s government had initially tried to discredit the protesting farmers, largely Sikh, claiming their concerns were motivated by religious nationalism. Some leaders in Modi’s party called them “Khalistanis,” a reference to a Sikh independence movement.
The reversal announcement came on the day of the Guru Purab festival when Sikhs celebrate their founder Guru Nanak’s birthday.
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