Kites battle drones as farmers take on police during India protests

Published February 15, 2024
Members of the farm union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) block railway tracks and shout slogans during a protest to demand minimum crop prices at a railway station in Rajpura, India on February 15. — AFP
Members of the farm union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) block railway tracks and shout slogans during a protest to demand minimum crop prices at a railway station in Rajpura, India on February 15. — AFP

Farmers protesting in India this week are using a homemade arsenal to counter the state-of-the-art weaponry of the security forces trying to disperse them: they’re flying kites to ensnare police drones carrying tear gas canisters.

For the past two days, thousands of farmers have fought pitched battles with security forces some 200 kilometres north of Delhi after police stopped their “Delhi Chalo” or “Let’s go to Delhi” march to the capital to demand the government provide higher prices for their crops.

On Thursday, representatives of the farmers unions met with government officials in a bid to reach a solution.

The farmers had brought their tractors and trucks along to the protest and have used these, and other farm equipment, as deterrents to the police action: jute vegetable sacks are soaked in water and used to contain the tear gas canisters while blowers disperse the fumes.

In addition to the kites, the farmers also have slingshots and flare guns to fire against the drones.

“Many people in this movement are veterans from the army, police or other forces, and they are suggesting ideas on how to minimise damage,” said Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, one of the farm unions leading the march.

Many servicemen in India’s Punjab and Haryana states turn to farming to make a living after they retire.

Karampal Singh, a 23-year-old protester, said the police were “forcing” farmers to act this way. “Let them do what they want, we will find a solution,” he said.

The police are also using their own innovative tactics.

Local media reported that this was the first time that security forces had used drones to drop tear gas canisters, and in addition to the usual sandbags and barbed wire, police have dug up strips of the road to the capital, or drilled nails into some stretches, to stop any vehicles from advancing.

Police are also using devices that emit high-pitched sounds to halt the protesters, and they have stocked up on lubricants to make the roads slippery in case the farmers try to advance on horseback, the India Today news website reported.

Police in Haryana state, which the farmers must pass through to reach Delhi, said “comprehensive” arrangements have been made to enforce the law.

“CCTVs and drones are also being used to help keep an eye on mischievous elements and miscreants,” said Manisha Chaudhary, a senior police officer.

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