Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a surprise visit to a historic Sikh temple in the capital New Delhi at a time when the community is leading massive protests against his farm reforms.
Modi paid the unscheduled visit to the Gurudwara Rakabganj temple on Sunday. He prayed at the temple, interacted with Sikh religious leaders and obliged visitors seeking to take pictures with him.
Officials said they made no special arrangements or traffic barriers to restrict people's movement for the visit.
“I felt extremely blessed,” Modi wrote on Twitter.
During the visit, people called on the premier to also pay a visit to the site of a protest on the suburbs of New Delhi, where farmers from around the nation have set up makeshift camps for weeks to protest the newly passed farm bills that farmers say will ravage their livelihoods.
Protesting farmers, mainly from Sikh-dominated Punjab and neighboring Haryana, have blocked highways into New Delhi for the past three weeks demanding a repeal of the laws.
Modi’s government passed three laws that it says are meant to overhaul procurement procedures and grant farmers more options to sell their products.
The farmers, however, say the proposed amendments will create an opportunity for large private companies to enter and exploit the entire agriculture sector.
More than half of India's working population comes from the agricultural sector, according to the most recent census in 2011.
People in several other countries have also been protesting in solidarity with Indian farmers. The newly-passed laws could have a significant impact on consumers globally, who rely on India for many items such as turmeric, chili and ginger.
The protests, according to experts, are about “the people who feed all of us.”
India is the leading exporter of Basmati rice and the world's largest milk producer, according to the country's Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
It is also the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices.
The United States, the United Kingdom, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka were the top 10 importers of Indian spices last year.