"The Government of India needs to engage and listen"
Human rights organisation Amnesty International has highlighted that protesting farmers in India are being demonised.
It has called for the government to stop its escalating crackdown on protestors, farming leaders and journalists.
Amnesty also called for the immediate and unconditional release of anyone arrested solely for peacefully protesting.
This comes after concerns were raised about the conditions protestors were subjected to at protest sites as well as the targeting of journalists reporting on the protests.
In addition, Amnesty was concerned about the removal of Twitter accounts tweeting from the ground or in support of the protestors.
The organisation said protest sites now look like war zones after the police put up metal and wire barricades, and blocked access using concrete and stone boulders.
It was reported that over 2,000 iron nails were scattered on roads leading to the sites.
The police have allegedly blocked access to portable toilets that were built by the farmers.
They have also refused to let street cleaners clear the growing mounds of rubbish, leading to worries about the spread of diseases.
At protest sites in Delhi, internet services have been repeatedly suspended.
Rajat Khosla, Senior Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy at Amnesty, said:
“The Government of India needs to engage and listen to its people.
“The authorities must stop threatening, demonising, and arresting peaceful protesters and stop treating them as ‘anti-nationals’ or ‘terrorists’.
“Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of activists and others who have been arrested for simply exercising their right to peaceful protest and for the government to stop the harassment and demonisation of protesters.”
At least eight top journalists and politicians have been charged with sedition after reporting on the Farmers Protest.
They have been charged with misreporting, spreading disharmony and inciting riots through their tweets.
Mandeep Punia is a freelance journalist for The Caravan. He was arrested on January 30, 2021, shortly after The Caravan published a story in which he reported that the BJP had sent activists to attack protesting farmers.
He was initially accused of obstructing the police before being accused of violence.
Mandeep was detained for 14 days without being allowed to see a lawyer but was later granted bail.
On February 1, 2021, Twitter suspended hundreds of Indian accounts including those belonging to news websites and activists for over 12 hours.
It came after the government said users were posting content inciting violence due to their use of the hashtag #FarmersProtests.
Twitter reversed its decision later that evening.
But on February 3, the Indian government served a notice to Twitter to comply with an order to remove content and accounts related to the Farmers’ Protest.
The same day, news media outlets said that journalists’ access to the protest sites were being obstructed by the police.
Farming groups have alleged that more than 100 people have gone missing since the Tractor Rally in Delhi, which was held on January 26, 2021.
Draconian laws like sedition and the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) have been used to clamp down on protestors.