NEW DELHI - Police on Monday baton-charged and fired water canon at demonstrators rallying in the Indian capital against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s land reforms, which they say will harm the country’s millions of farmers.

Hundreds of protesters, led by the opposition Congress party, attempted to break through barricades erected to stop them marching on the national parliament over the controversial land bill, one of Modi’s key economic reforms.

“It (the bill) is anti-farmer and it also endangers the food security of the country,” senior Congress party spokesman Anand Sharma told TV channels as supporters waved party flags behind him.  “This government has opened the door to acquire farmers’ land, multi-crop land for the private sector, which is unacceptable,” he added.

Armed with large wooden sticks, police beat back the protesters and sprayed water at small groups together on the road after they jumped over the barricades.

The draft law would make it easier to acquire land for critical infrastructure projects as part of right-wing Modi’s pledges to reform and revive India’s economy after storming to power at elections last May. The bill overhauls legislation passed by the previous left-leaning government, which Modi supporters say has held up billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects.

It last week passed parliament’s lower house, where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies hold a majority, after Congress and other opposition lawmakers stormed out of the chamber in protest during voting.

Meanwhile, thousands are expected to join a rally led by priests in India’s Kolkata later Monday in support of a 71-year-old nun who was gang-raped at her convent school, the city’s archbishop said.

The rape by a gang of robbers late on Friday is the latest in a series of high-profile sexual assaults in India that have intensified outrage over high levels of violence against women.

“We expect three to four thousand people to attend the rally. In fact we have asked all the city parishes to join the rally,” Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza told AFP.

“We also expect common people to participate and express their solidarity to the victim.”

The archbishop stressed the rally was not aimed at condemning any political party over the attack, which comes amid concern in India’s Christian community at a spate of recent attacks mostly on churches.

Priests and other Christian leaders have blamed those attacks on religious hardliners who have become emboldened since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power at general elections last year.

D’Souza said hymns and prayers for the nun would be encouraged at the rally, which would culminate in a candlelit vigil on Monday evening.

The nun, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was attacked after the robbers ransacked the convent school at Ranaghat, 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Kolkata, and stole cash and other items.

The woman, who needed surgery from injuries suffered during the attack, is recovering in hospital in Ranaghat.

Police have detained eight men for questioning but no arrests have been made even though the faces of some of the attackers were captured on CCTV footage.

The incident adds to a grim record of sexual assaults in India. It comes amid raging debate over the banning of a documentary about a December 2012 gang-rape in New Delhi that sparked national and international outrage.

The attack has also intensified fears among the Christian minority after a series of vandalism and arson attacks on institutions mostly in Delhi since December.

Modi in February pledged a crackdown on religious violence and freedom of worship for all faiths in the wake of the attacks.

Modi had been strongly criticised for not speaking out earlier, despite growing concern at the actions of Hindu hardliners including a spate of mass “re-conversions” of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

Around 80 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population is Hindu but it is also home to large numbers of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.