Thousands of farmers in tractor convoys burst through police barricades Tuesday to take their protest against agriculture reform to the heart of India’s capital, just as the nation marked Republic Day with a giant military parade.
Police had earlier sealed most entrances to the city with containers and trucks, but had to use tear gas and batons as the farmers broke through.
Some protesters reached a major intersection three kilometres (1.8 miles) from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government leaders watched tanks and troops parade past and fighter jets fly overhead.
Modi waved to crowds and was driven back to his residence before any personal confrontation with the farmers, the biggest challenge his Hindu nationalist government has faced in its six years in power.
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of the capital since November, protesting against new laws that deregulate produce markets.
Union leaders say the laws will allow private Indian conglomerates to take over the agriculture industry — the rockbed of the economy — and replace a system of purchases by the government at guaranteed prices.