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India: Modi surprises with Sikh temple visit amid farm protests

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India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unscheduled visit to a Sikh temple in New Delhi on Sunday. He knelt down in respect and took pictures with visitors. At a time when the community is leading massive protests against his farm reforms.

Protests from farmers

Sikhs in India and abroad have rallied against recent measures to deregulate agriculture markets. They fear would erode farm incomes by giving a greater inform profit-chasing private companies. Rather than assuring a minimum price like in government-regulated wholesale markets.

Protesting farmers, mainly from Sikh-dominated Punjab and neighboring Haryana, have blocked highways into New Delhi for the past three weeks. They are demanding a repeal of the laws, which the government says widen the agriculture market and are crucial to spice up storage and other infrastructure.

The protesters have repeatedly rebuffed Modi and his ministers’ attempts to achieve a compromise, in what has become the most important challenge from the country’s farmers in his six-year rule.

On Wednesday, a 65-year-old Sikh priest committed suicide at one of the protest sites. The farmers have demanded a 24-hour rotating fast from Monday among protesters at home and abroad.

Modi, whose security detail often keeps him remote from the general public, prayed at the Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, interacted with Sikh religious leaders there and obliged visitors seeking to require pictures with him.

The temple near the Parliament House was where Sikh saint Guru Teg Bahadur was cremated.

Social Media presence

“I felt extremely blessed,” Modi said on Twitter.

While some social media users and his party colleagues welcomed Modi’s visit to the shrine sort of a “common man, without any restrictions”, others urged him to do and end the protests where tens of thousands of farmers, many in their sixties or above, are sleeping within the open within the cold.

“A request to @narendramodi please visit #FarmersProtests site further where #Farmers are peacefully protesting,” one Twitter user wrote.

 

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