© Reuters. A farmer sitting on a tractor loaded with sugar cane waits to unload the harvest outside a sugar factory in Baghpat
By Devjyot Ghoshal BHAINSWAL, India (Reuters) – Thousands of farmers in a politically important Indian state demonstrated on Friday in opposition to new farm laws, signaling growing support for a months-long campaign to eliminate government reforms. . Angered by what they see as legislation that benefits private buyers at the expense of farmers, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi for more than two months, calling for the withdrawal of laws introduced in September. . Much of the initial support for the protests came from rice and wheat farmers in northern India, particularly the opposition-ruled state of Punjab. But in a sign of growing defiance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, thousands of farmers demonstrated in Uttar Pradesh state on Friday to show their support for the protests. “Everyone here is going to join the movement,” said Jitendra Singh, 55, a sugarcane farmer at the rally in Bhainswal village. Hundreds of policemen, many of them armed and in riot gear, stood by, but there were no problems. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in India and a critical state in elections. While Modi’s party has a comfortable majority in parliament, support for the protests by politically influential sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh will be a concern. Farmers say the laws spell the end of long-standing support prices for their crops and will leave them vulnerable to the whims of big buyers. They demand the annulment of the laws. The government says reforming the inefficient agricultural sector will open up new opportunities for farmers and, while it has offered some concessions, has ruled out withdrawing the laws. The protests have been largely peaceful, but erupted into unrest on January 26 when some farmers clashed with police in New Delhi and one person was killed and hundreds injured. To the government’s chagrin, the protests have attracted increasing international scrutiny, with celebrities like pop star Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg announcing their support for farmers.