In a massive show of strength to protest three farm laws, more than 100,000 farmers and agricultural laborers gathered in the Indian state of Punjab on February 21 and vowed to intensify their protests by mobilizing more supporters outside the nation's capital New Delhi later this month.
The rally, held at a grain market in Punjab's Barnala town, drew crowds of between 120,000 and 130,000 supporters, according to local police estimates.
The rally, which was also attended by thousands of women, was among the largest mobilizations against the farm laws, introduced in September last year by the Narendra Modi-led government to deregulate the sale of crops.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at several border points around Delhi for nearly three months to demand a repeal of the laws, which they say are pro-corporate and will hurt the interests of farmers.
"We came here to make Punjab's farmers aware of the movement in Delhi. We came to tell them what's happening there and what will happen next," prominent farmer leader Joginder Ugrahan told Reuters.
During the rally in Barnala, union leaders announced plans to amass supporters across Punjab and move to a protest site outside New Delhi on February 27.
"Our objective is that the black laws enacted by the Modi government are repealed," Baljinder Singh, a 52-year-old farmer, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, in the Indian capital, a senior official from Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused the opposition parties, which have been backing the farmers' protests, of trying to stoke unrest.
The Indian government is open for further talks, he said.
The Narendra Modi government, which is refusing to roll back the laws, has offered to defer them instead. The laws have been enacted to help the farmers receive better prices for crops, the government has argued.
There have been several rounds of negotiations between the government and the farmers, but they have failed to break the impasse, with farmers' unions saying they will continue their protests until the laws are repealed.