Tens of thousands of farmers block key highways across the country for three hours, as their leaders issue an ultimatum to Modi's government to repeal three new farm laws by October 2.

Protesters block a highway at Kundli in Haryana state on February 6, 2021.
Protesters block a highway at Kundli in Haryana state on February 6, 2021. (AFP)

Tens of thousands of protesting Indian farmers have blockaded highways across the country for three hours to press their demands for the repeal of new agricultural laws.

Authorities deployed thousands of security forces mainly outside India’s capital on Saturday, where farmers have camped at three main sites for more than two months. 

They say they won't leave until the government rolls back the laws it says are necessary to modernise Indian agriculture.

The highway blockade began at noon local time (0630 GMT).

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said the farmers have given PM Narendra Modi's government till October 2 to repeal laws.

"After this, we will do further planning. We won't hold discussions with the government under pressure," he said. 

Ten metro stations were closed on Saturday in central New Delhi, where a tractor rally last month turned into a violent rampage, and thousands of police manned barricades and roadblocks at key intersections.

Several rounds of talks between farmers with the government have failed to produce any breakthroughs.

READ MORE: Why Indian farmers are protesting Modi's new farm laws

No new trouble amid strikes

The farmers' unions called for protest roadblocks across the country in the latest day of action. The media reported isolated farmers and their supporters occupying roads and toll booths in several states but no trouble.

Outside of Delhi major police deployments were ordered in the key farm states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab.

"There is an adequate deployment of force at sensitive locations" around Delhi, Uttar Pradesh police spokesman Atul Srivastava said.

The farmers say new farm laws will leave them poorer and at the mercy of corporations. Their action is a major challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Friday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar defended the laws in Parliament, dampening hopes of a quick settlement as he made no new offer to resume talks with the farmers.

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Heavy security after Republic Day violence 

The largely peaceful rally turned violent on January 26, India’s Republic Day, when a group of farmers riding tractors veered from the protest route and stormed the 17th century Red Fort. 

Hundreds of police officers were injured and a protester died. Scores of farmers were also injured but officials have not given their numbers.

Farmer leaders condemned the violence but said they would not call off the protest.

Since then, authorities have heavily increased security at protest sites outside New Delhi's border, adding iron spikes and steel barricades to stop the farmers from entering the capital.

Source: AFP