Indian court suspends new agriculture laws after mass protests

Judges order committee to look into grievances, but unions vow further demonstrations until laws repealed

India’s supreme court has suspended a series of controversial new agriculture laws that had prompted hundreds of thousands of farmers to stage a months-long protest in Delhi over fears their livelihoods were at stake.

Since November, upwards of half a million farmers had marched to the peripheries of Delhi and occupied roads and highways going into the capital, setting up a 24-hour protest camp and refusing to move until the new laws were repealed.

Farmers, mainly from the states of Punjab and Haryana, had argued that the new laws were passed by the government without consultation, had exposed them to the mercy of large corporations for crop prices and put them at greater risk of poverty and losing their land.

The farmers’ protests have proved to be one of the greatest political challenges to face prime minister, Narendra Modi, since he came to power in 2014. It was one of the first times the government had been forced to the negotiating table following mass agitation and, despite eight rounds of talks, had remained in deadlock.

After two days of deliberation, the supreme court ruled on Tuesday to suspend the laws. Judges ordered the creation of a four-man committee to look into farmers’ grievances over the laws, saying they were “extremely disappointed” with how negotiations had gone so far. The judges also expressed concern at the lack of consultation with farmers when passing the law.

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