Farmers' agitation outside capital New Delhi enters eleventh day, while all major opposition parties voice their support for countrywide strike on December 8 against new farm laws.

Farmers protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi, India, on December 4, 2020.
Farmers protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi, India, on December 4, 2020. (Reuters)

Protesting Indian farmers have continued to blockade key highways leading to the capital New Delhi, a day after their talks with the government failed, while all major opposition parties said they will back framers' call for a nationwide strike on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a protest rally was held in California in solidarity with Indian farmers whose agitation entered the eleventh day on Sunday against the controversial farm laws. Rallies were also held in Canada and the UK to protest Indian farm laws. 

The main opposition Congress party's spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should test the farmers' patience, saying "Pick your pen, apologise to farmers and annul the black laws immediately."

"The interests of the capitalists cannot be bigger than the crores of farmers of the country," he said.

The liberal Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which has also supported the December 8 strike asked its workers to protest "peacefully." 

"The Aam Aadmi Party fully supports the 'Bharat Bandh' [India strike] call made by farmers on December 8," party chief Arvind Kejriwal said. 

"AAP workers across the country will support it peacefully. There is an appeal to all countrymen that everyone should support the farmers and participate in it," Kejriwal said.

Farmers will block all roads leading to New Delhi, occupy highway toll booths, and burn effigies of corporate houses and government leaders, the coalition leading the protests has said. 

READ MORE: Indian farmers clash with police over Modi's agricultural reforms

What are farmers protesting over?

Thousands of farmers are protesting new laws that they say could devastate crop prices and reduce their earnings. They have blocked highways on the outskirts of New Delhi for almost two weeks now. 

The farmers say the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices.

The Indian government says the farmers are now free to sell their produce to anyone at any price, instead of to state-controlled markets at assured rates.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed this as a "complete transformation of the agriculture sector" that would empower "tens of millions of farmers" and encourage much-needed investment and modernisation.

But the main opposition Congress party, which is in power in the northern state of Punjab where many of the protesters come from, has argued the change will give private corporations free rein to exploit farmers.

The plight of Indian farmers has long been a political hot potato.

Issues such as erratic weather patterns blamed on climate crisis and mounting debt have been blamed for the suicides of thousands of farmers in recent years.

Canada supports farmers; protests in California

Farmers have been protesting the laws for nearly two months in northern Punjab and Haryana states. 

The situation escalated when tens of thousands marched to New Delhi, where they clashed with police, who used tear gas, water cannons, and batons against them.

The farmers are camping along at least five major highways on the outskirts of the capital and have said they won't leave until the government rolls back what they call the "black laws."

Canada, where a large number of Indian Sikhs reside, has backed Indian farmers' right to protest peacefully, angering New Delhi.

On Saturday, thousands of people across Canada expressed their solidarity with Indian farmworkers through protests. 

Protests were also held in the US state of California where hundreds of people led a procession across the Bay Bridge in solidarity with Indian farmers.

"The bills they introduced are 110 percent against the farmers and the people in Punjab," Harpreet Singh, a protestor, told local newspaper The Mercury News.

"They have to kneel down on their knees and take these bills back."

Protests in London against India's farming reforms

Thousands of people protested in central London on Sunday. 

A crowd of demonstrators converged on the Indian embassy, located on Aldwych, a major artery in the centre of the British capital, and groups marched around the Trafalgar Square area, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.

Britain is home to a large Indian diaspora and many Britons who trace their family roots to India are strongly engaged with news from the country.

There was little social distancing in evidence at the London protests and few participants were wearing face masks.

The Metropolitan Police warned that people taking part in a gathering that did not respect Covid-19 restrictions risked being fined, and called on people to leave the area.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies