PM says he feels ‘blessed’ during surprise stop in New Delhi, as thousands of farmers vow more mass rallies.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made an unscheduled visit to a Sikh temple in New Delhi, kneeling in respect and taking pictures with visitors at a time when the community is leading massive protests against his farm reforms.
At least 25 people have died during the protests against the three laws – approved by Parliament in September – so far, police said; several deaths were due to the biting cold weather.
Modi, whose security detail often keeps him far from the general public, prayed at the Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib on Sunday, interacted with Sikh religious leaders there and obliged visitors seeking to take pictures with him.
The temple, near Parliament House, was where Sikh saint Guru Teg Bahadur was cremated.
“I felt extremely blessed,” Modi said on Twitter.
But while some social media users and his party colleagues welcomed Modi’s visit to the shrine like a “common man, without any restrictions”, others urged him to try and end the protests.
“A request to @narendramodi please visit #FarmersProtests site as well where #Farmers are peacefully protesting,” a Twitter user posted.
Thousands of protesting farmers, mainly from Sikh-dominated Punjab and neighbouring Haryana, have been blocking highways into New Delhi for the past three weeks demanding a repeal of the new fam laws, which the government says will expand the agriculture market and are crucial to boosting storage and other infrastructure.
Many farmers in their sixties or older are sleeping in the open, braving the harsh winter weather camped in their tractors and trailers parked bumper to bumper along the highways.