Republic shamed as farmers’ rally turns violent

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 26, 2021

A protester plants Sikh flag Nishan Sahib along with a farmer union flag at the Red Fort in New Delhi   -  AP

Protesters running amok on tractors, scaling Red Fort ramparts mar R-Day in Capital; 45 policemen injured, one farmer dead

The Republic Day witnessed violence and unprecedented scenes at the Red Fort where farmers’ union and Sikh religious flag were hoisted along with the Tricolour during an alternative “tractor parade” carried out by lakhs of farmers protesting against three Central farm laws. Ugly clashes at several points between protesters, who violated the charted routes, and the police left a farmer from Uttarakhand dead and at least 45 policemen injured.

The farmer unions called off the tractor parade by evening and issued an unconditional apology for the violence that primarily ensued because of violation of the scheduled timing and set routes for the parade.

After a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah, the Centre decided to deploy additional paramilitary forces to maintain calm even as the protesters had started to disperse and move towards their sit-in venues at the border points on Singhu, Shahjahanabad, Tikri and Ghazipur. Internet and other telecom services were suspended in these areas till midnight from noon onwards.

Violence breaks out

The umbrella group of 500 organisations spearheading the two-month-long sit-in at Delhi’s borders, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), suspended its tractor rally in the Capital following the violence. “SKM has called off the kisan Republic Day parade with immediate effect, and has appealed to all participants to immediately return to their respective protest sites.” SKM announced the movement will continue peacefully and further steps will be discussed and decided soon.

The police had given permission for the tractor parade on Republic Day and marked out specific routes for the protesters and the SKM had agreed that the tractor parade will commence only after the formal Republic Day celebrations end.

However, a group of protesters started rolling their tractors into the city from the Singhu border from morning onwards. Simultaneously, at the Ghazipur border, where Rakesh Tikait and his Bharatiya Kisan Union is largely holding the fort, farmers broke barricades and trooped towards ITO, one of the main intersections in the Capital.

The heavily outnumbered police were helpless at many flash-points where armed protesters chased them with swords and lathis. The Nihangs in their battle-gear were carrying swords while marching into the city. At ITO, despite the police lobbing teargas shells, the protesters strode in on foot and used tractors to push aside buses and trucks placed as barricades. A bleeding policeman was seen being administered first aid by his colleagues near the Red Fort. Tractors driven at high speed also dispersed the thinly deployed police personnel. From Ghazipur, the police were easily dispersed by thousands of protesters on their motorbikes, tractors and cars, pushing aside barricades easily.

A farmer, identified as Navneet Singh from Uttarakhand, was killed in the clashes. While the family of the farmer, which staged a sit-in at the ITO with his body, alleged that he died in police firing, the police released a CCTV footage of him driving a tractor at high speed which over-turned, injuring him fatally. The number of injured among the protesters was unknown.

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Published on January 26, 2021
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