India

Clashes, vandalism, tractors on roads: How farmers’ march turned violent

The Delhi Police were gearing up for a protest march by farmers protesting near the national capital on Republic Day. After multiple rounds of discussions, the farmers were told to start their rally only after the official Republic Day parade gets over. They were also given alternate routes for the march.

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But as the day progressed, farmers deviated from the approved routes and started moving towards central Delhi which led to clashes with the policemen.

Tens of thousands of protesting farmers drove long lines of tractors on roads in central Delhi (ITO and Minto Road) on Tuesday, breaking through police barricades and defying tear gas.

The protesters stormed the Red Fort and waved farm union flags from its ramparts, where prime ministers annually hoist the national flag to mark the country’s Independence.

A group of farmers marched on foot and rode on horseback while shouting slogans against the central government.

Clashes took place between the police and the protesters at the Red Fort too in which a few cops were injured. They were rushed to hospital.

The farmers parked their tractors right outside the Red Fort.

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Meanwhile, clashes continued in other places too as the protesters tried to enter the national capital.

Riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons at numerous places to push back the rows upon rows of tractors, which shoved aside concrete and steel barricades. Authorities blocked roads with large trucks and buses in an attempt to stop the farmers from reaching the centre of the national capital. The farmers were seen ramming their tractors into those buses.

Some Delhi Police officials even sat on the road in Nangloi to stop the farmers. In view of protesters entering parts of Delhi, gates of several metro stations were closed and the traders in Connaught Place decided to down their shutters.

“Since morning we had been appealing to farmers to go by pre-approved route but some of them broke police barricades, attacked police personnel. Appeal to farmer unions to help maintain peace. This isn’t a peaceful protest on Republic Day,” said Shalini Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police, in Nangloi.

The farmer leaders are making appeals, urging farmers to avoid dhoing things which will tarnish the movement. “I appeal on behalf of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) to all farmers not to pay attention to rumours, also appeal to them to return to their designated routes. Please don’t do any thing that tarnishes the farmers’ movement,” said Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, SKM leader Darshan Pal condemned the “undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today”. He also said, “We dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts.”

News agency ANI reported that internet services have been snapped in some parts of Delhi-NCR in view of the prevailing law and order situation.

For nearly two months, farmers have camped at the edge of the capital, blockading highways and other important roads. They are demanding the withdrawal of three new laws – passed in September last year – which they say will commercialise agriculture and devastate farmers’ earnings.

The government has rubbished these allegations terming the three laws “historic”. it has also offered to amend the laws and suspend their implementation for 18 months. But farmers insist they will settle for nothing less than a complete repeal. They plan to march on foot to Parliament on February 1, when the country’s new budget will be presented.

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