Farmers sow seeds of violence: Union ends tractor rally, security beefed up

Protesters hoist religious flags at the Red Fort during the ‘tractor rally’ on the 72nd Republic Day, in New Delhi | Photo: PTI
There was chaos and a death on Delhi’s roads on the 72nd Republic Day on Tuesday as teeming numbers of farmers, protesting against the three controversial farm Acts for two months, broke barriers and indulged in mayhem during a planned tractor parade.

A protesting farmer died after his tractor overturned at ITO, which is in central Delhi, the police said. They said the details about the deceased were yet to be gathered.

The farmers draped the body in the tri-colour and kept it at the ITO crossing, not allowing the police to send it for post-mortem. Some TV channels have said several policemen have been injured.

At the end of the day, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organisation, called off the parade and appealed to all participants to return to their respective protest sites. The body denied any role in the dislocation caused in the city. 

The SKM said the movement would continue peacefully and further steps would be discussed and decided upon soon.

The police and tractor-mounted farmers fought pitched battles at the points where the latter have hunkered down since the start of the agitation in November, and also ITO.

A police person fires tear-gas as farmers break barricades near Akshardham
The police fired teargas shells and used the baton on the protestors as the farmers made a determined bid to enter central Delhi, where the Republic Day’s main function was being held.

In ITO, a car was damaged by protesters, and shells, bricks, and stones littered the wide streets, a testimony to the fact that the movement, which had been peaceful for two months, was no longer so. A similar situation prevailed in the border areas as well while filing this report.

The situation came to a head when a group of protesters reached the Red Fort and unfurled a religious flag at the same place where the prime minister hoists the tri-colour every year on August 15.

Just a few days before the proposed tractor parade, the leaders of the protesting farmer unions had finalised the route the tractor parade would take and had assured all it would be peaceful.

However, during the protests, all the assurances seemed to have been thrown to the wind, with farmers breaking resistance well before the appointed time of 11:30 am, deviating from the route, and also carrying more than the permitted number of people on their vehicles.

Most farmer leaders of the 41-member SKM, which has been spearheading the agitation, were not present to control the situation when the protestors had a free run of the central part of the city.

Later in the day, the SKM gave a statement disassociating itself from the violence, saying some “anti-social elements” infiltrated their otherwise peaceful movement.

“We thank farmers for the unprecedented participation in today’s farmers’ Republic Day Parade. We also condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts,” the SKM said.

The Delhi police closed the entry and exit gates of at least 20 metro stations and stopped trains for over two hours at Tilak Bridge railway station after the protestors reached ITO.

The government ordered suspending internet services in parts of Delhi-NCR. It also shut down the internet till Tuesday midnight in Delhi’s Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk, Nangloi and their adjoining areas, which are some of the places where the farmers have dug in their heels.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had a high-level meeting of officials to assess the situation. After this 15 companies of central armed forces were deployed across the city while the Delhi Police commissioner has been asked to deal with the protesters strictly.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel