Thousands of farmers protesting against three new agriculture laws started a tractor rally on Thursday morning. The farmers started their rally from protest sites, bordering Delhi at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, and Rewasan in Haryana, to the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways, according to The Indian Express.

“There were about 300 tractors when we flagged off the march from the Sampla toll gate [road connecting Haryana to Western Peripheral Expressway],” All India Kisan Sabha Joint Secretary Vijoo Krishnan told The Hindu. “But as we reached the the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway, there were thousands more. It is no exaggeration to say there were thousands of tractors and farm vehicles joining us on the road.”

Farmers’ unions said that Thursday’s rally was only a “rehearsal” ahead of another such march proposed on January 26, when they plan to move into the national Capital from different parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, reported PTI.

“In the coming days, we will intensify our agitation against the three farm laws,” Abhimanyu Kohar of the Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions that organised Thursday’s rally, told PTI. “Around 2,500 tractors Haryana participated in today’s march. We want to warn that if the government does not accept our demands, the protest will intensify further.”

Rakesh Bains, a spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni), echoed the sentiments. “We are sending the message that we are preparing for January 26,” he told The Hindu. “The government should accept this. To the farming community, we send the message that they should all come out on January 26, for the sake of our country.”

Meanwhile, Ramzan Chaudhary, the co-ordinator for the rally from Nuh to Palwal on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway in Haryana, was detained by the police and a few more leaders were put under house arrest on Thursday morning, The Hindu reported. Narendra Bijarniya, superintendent of police of Nuh district, however, denied the house arrests and said that Chaudhary was called to the police station only for details about the rally’s route.

Farm law protests

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for over a month against the laws now, withstanding temperatures dropping to two to three degrees Celsius.

The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

After seven rounds of talks between the Centre and farmer unions, the two sides havereached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters of contention. However, the deadlock continues on the two main demands of farmers – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system.

The next meeting is scheduled on January 8.