Police personnel fire tear gas shells as protesting framers create chaos during tractor rally at ring road in New Delhi
Delhi Police Thursday issued lookout notices against farmer leaders and announced a probe into the "conspiracy" behind the Republic Day violence, even as the Ghaziabad administration gave an ultimatum to the protesters at UP Gate to vacate the site by midnight.
Bharatiya Kisan Union(BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, however, told reporters at the UP gate in Ghazipur bordering Delhi that he would rather commit suicide than leave and end the protest against the farm laws, setting the stage for a confrontation with security personnel. Thousands of farmers from the BKU are camping at the protest site since November 28.
Heavy security force presence was visible near the camp site, which faces a midnight deadline to vacate, even as it faced frequent power cuts in the evening.
"I will commit suicide but won't end protest until the farm bills are repealed," said Rakesh Tikait, who is the national spokesperson of the BKU.
He also claimed a threat to his life, alleging that armed goons were sent to the protest site.
However, the BKU appeared to be divided on the future course of action with Naresh Tikait, brother of Rakesh, saying the protest will get over.
"Don't be disappointed. Today the protest at Ghazipur will also get over. It's better to vacate than getting beaten up police," he told a gathering in Muzaffarnagar earlier in the day.
Condemning the Uttar Pradesh government and police for the ultimatum, Rakesh Tikait said, "No violence has taken place at the Ghazipur border but still the UP government is resorting to policy of suppression. This is the face of the UP government."
The "verbal" communication from the Ghaziabad administration to BKU came after three farmers union withdrew their protest against the three central farm laws over the violence in Delhi on January 26 that left 394 security personnel injured and one protestor dead.
"Ghaziabad District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey has communicated to the protesters camping at the UP Gate at Delhi border to vacate the spot by tonight or the administration will remove them," a district official told PTI.
Meanwhile, widening its probe in connection with the violent turn of events during which protesters also stormed the iconic Red Fort and hoisted a Sikh religious flag, Delhi Police said the role and conduct of organisations and individuals based in India as well as those out of the country will be investigated, a move that comes after police chief S N Srivastava warned no culprit will be spared.
It further said a criminal case has been registered and is being investigated under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sections of IPC dealing with sedition.
The Delhi Police claimed that there was a "pre-conceived" and "well coordinated" plan to break the agreement arrived at with farmer leaders to bring international embarrassment for the government on Republic Day.
The Crime Branch will probe the cases of violence at the Red Fort, ITO, Nangloi Crossing, and six other places during the farmers' tractor parade on Republic Day, an official said.
An ACP-rank officer will head each team that will investigate nine cases and there will be multiple officers assisting him or her, he said.
The official said the police have so far registered 33 FIRs in connection with the violence, adding that lookout notices have been issued against 44 people, which include most of the farmer leaders.
"The Delhi Police has issued lookout notices against farmer leaders named in an FIR in connection with the violence during the tractor parade," Police Commissioner Srivastava told PTI.
The police asked the 37 farmer leaders, including Rakesh Tikait, Yogendra Yadav, Balbeer Singh Rajewal whose names have been named in an FIR in connection with the violence, to submit their response within three days, explaining why legal action should not be taken against them as they did not follow the conditions set for the parade.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha said it will not be intimidated by the notices sent to its leaders by the Delhi Police and alleged that the government is trying to put an end to the farmers' movement against agri laws by blaming it for the violence during the January 26 tractor rally.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha is an umbrella body of farmer unions protesting against the Centre's three farm laws at various border points of Delhi.
Facing widespread condemnation, farmer union leaders during the day took out a "Sadbhavna rally" from the Singhu border to reinforce a sense of unity among the protestors.
Several of their leaders, including Rajewal, Daljeet Singh Dallewal, Darshan Pal and Gurnam Singh Chaduni, who led the rally said the march was organised "to counter the forces trying to divide the protesting farmers along religious lines and as per states" and to show that they respect the tricolour.
Several tractors and two-wheelers with the national flag took part in the 16-km-long rally which started from the stage at the Singhu protest site and went up to the beginning of the Kundli-Manesar Palwal highway.
Thousands of protesting farmers had clashed with the police during the tractor rally called by farmer unions to highlight their demand for repeal of the Centre's three farm laws.
Many of the protesters, driving tractors, reached the Red Fort and entered the monument. Some protesters even hoisted religious flags on its domes and the flagstaff at the ramparts, where the national flag is unfurled by the prime minister on Independence Day.
"A preliminary assessment suggests there was a pre-conceived and well coordinated plan to break the agreement reached between Delhi Police and the leaders of farmers organisations, to indulge in violent confrontation with the security forces, to breach the sanctity of iconic and historical structures and monuments and to create an international embarrassment for the government on the occasion of the Republic Day," the police said in a statement.
According to an FIR registered in connection with violence the Red Fort incident, two magazines with 20 live cartridges were snatched from two constables by protestors who also damaged vehicles and robbed anti-riot gears.
The FIR has been filed at the Kotwali police station in north Delhi. It said 141 security personnel were injured during the violence at Red Fort.
The FIR stated that the protestors tried to snatch the guns but both the constables saved their weapons. They, however, could not save the magazines.
"The mob tried to snatch the MP-5 gun of constable Bhawani Singh. However, he managed to save the gun but could not save the magazine which had 20 live rounds. Similarly, the mob also snatched the magazine with 20 live rounds of constable Naresh's SLR gun," the FIR stated.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up at all the protest sites -- Singhu and Tikri -- with senior police officials saying that such arrangements have been made as part of measures in view of the January 26 violence.
After the violence, the crowd at the Singhu and Tikri borders has visibly thinned amid heavy police deployment, even as farmer unions said it is because of protestors, who headed to Delhi for the January 26 march, returning home.
The Singhu border, one of the major protest sites that has been home to thousands of farmers for over two months now, was on Thursday noticeably less populated than its pre Republic day version, or even before that.
The number of tractors have reduced, so have the protestors, and the streets that were chock a block until last week, can now be walked through in no time.
Farmers said it was because the protestors who had arrived specifically to participate in the tractor parade on January 26 had returned home.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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