UN chief urges calm following violent police-farmers clashes in Delhi on India's Republic Day

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 27 (APP): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Tuesday called for calm in the wake of violent clashes in New Delhi between the protesting Indian farmers and the police that left one person dead and many more injured.

“As we say many of these cases, I think it’s important to respect peaceful protests, freedom of assembly and non-violence,” his Spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in response to a question at the regular noon briefing in New York.

The spokesman did not elaborate.

The clashes were the worst violence in weeks amid what has become one of the longest-running labour standoffs in Indian history that poses a big challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The farmers had announced that they would hold massive rallies on Tuesday to coincide with India’s Republic Day.

Mostly Sikhs from the states of Punjab and Haryana, the farmers began their protests in mid-November, marching to Delhi and setting up makeshift camps on the capital’s borders. They have held their ground since then, occasionally organizing big tractor-led marches into the capital.

They are demanding Modi’s government repeal three farming laws aimed at deregulating the country’s agriculture sector.

The farmers say the laws will help big businesses but destroy the livelihoods of smaller farmers, who make up the backbone of the agriculture sector.