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Indian farmers are free from yearlong protests and have returned home

NEW DELHI (AP), Tens of thousands were jubilant Indian farmers who cleared protest spots on the capital's outskirts on Saturday and began returning home. This marked an end of their year-long protests against agricultural reforms that were rescinded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in a rare retreat.

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Indian farmers are free from yearlong protests and have returned home

Farmers began to clear out long stretches of New Delhi's highways where they had been camping since November last year. As they rode jeeps, tractors and cars, hundreds of them waved green flags and danced in celebration.

"Farmers saved democracy." It was a struggle for justice," stated farmer Nagendra Singh.

Modi announced last month that the new measures would be withdrawn after a year of farmers insisting on their benefits. On November 30, Parliament approved a bill to repeal these laws. The farmers refused to immediately vacate protest sites, and they said that they would continue demonstrations until the government accepted other demands such as guaranteed prices for key crops or the withdrawal of criminal charges against protesters.

The government established a committee on Thursday to address these demands.

Modi's government insisted that these laws were necessary reforms to modernize Indian agriculture and would result in a deregulated market with greater private-sector oversight of agriculture.

Farmers claimed that the laws would severely reduce their income and place them at the mercy big corporations. Protesting, they demanded the repeal of all laws.

They also demanded that the government guarantee prices on certain vital crops like wheat and rice. Currently, an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces at fixed prices.

India's most powerful voting bloc is the farmers. Modi's decision not to repeal the laws came before elections in key states, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year. These are important agricultural producers. His Bharatiya Janata Party is keen to increase its support.

Analysts believe the surprise move is due to the upcoming elections, although it's too soon to know if it will succeed.

Modi apologized to farmers, but only after resorting dictatorship. We were called terrorists. Jaigran, another farmer with a single name, said that he had to bow down in protest at the upcoming election.

Modi's government tried to discredit the protestors, mostly Sikh farmers, by dismissing their concerns with religious nationalism. Modi's party leaders called them "Khalistanis", referring to an Indian movement for an independent Sikh homeland.

These allegations proved to be false, further infuriating farmers and their support.

These protests attracted international support and were the largest challenge Modi's government had to face since its 2014 election.

Although they were peaceful, violence broke out on Jan. 26, when thousands of farmers temporarily took control of the historic Red Fort in New Delhi. This was a deeply symbolic act. One farmer was killed and many protestors and police officers were hurt.

Farmers leaders claim that more than 500 protesters died from suicide, cold weather, and COVID-19 since November. They insist that the government pay 500,000 rupees ($6,750 per family) as compensation. The government denies that it has any figures regarding the number of people who died during the movement.

Leaders said that they would review the steps taken by government next month and determine their future actions.

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