- Farmers clashed with police in Uttarakhand's Udham Singh Nagar district
- Protesters say police tried to block peaceful demonstrations
- Farmers are protesting against the centre's agricultural laws
Farmers protesting the central government's agrarian reforms clashed with the police in Uttarakhand's Udham Singh Nagar district on Friday, with dramatic footage showing the demonstrators running a tractor over a barricade as dozens of policemen try to hold them back.
A video posted on Twitter by news agency ANI showed a large crowd of protesters facing off with the police. A few protesters driving a green tractor charge at a barricade, running it down and forcing the policemen to finally get out of the way.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, whose party severed ties with the BJP over the new farm laws, said the police tried to block the protests without giving any justifiable reason and launched a crackdown on protesters who were peaceful at first.
"I was leading the agitation. I was asking the police why they were stopping us. It was a violation of the Supreme Court's order. The police kept saying that they had orders from the top. Uttarakhand police are saying that its law and order concern. The police have done excesses," he told NDTV.
"Farmers are being stopped without any reason. We were not being told as to why we are being stopped from reaching Delhi," he added.
The images of the clash evoked the attempts by the police in Haryana last month to block the protests by farmers from reaching Delhi that triggered widespread criticism for the brutish measures to stop peaceful protests. Earlier this month, even the Supreme Court said farmers had the right to protest peacefully.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping out near several entry points to the capital since last month against three new laws they say will lead to the dismantling of regulated markets.
They also fear the government would stop buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
Farmer unions have demanded a total repeal of the laws and warned of a bigger agitation if their demands are not met.
Several rounds of talks between ministers and farmer leaders have failed to produce a breakthrough so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday offered to hold fresh talks to end the stalemate.
In a speech beamed live to millions of farmers across the country, he sought to allay their misgivings, insisting the laws, passed in September, would give them the freedom to sell their produce "anywhere and to anyone they like".
While a large number of farmers protesting are from Punjab and Haryana, their cause has found support in other parts of the country including in Uttarakhand.
Sundarlal Bahuguna, leader of the state's famous conservation campaign Chipko movement of the 70s, last week extended his support to the protesting farmers.