Farmers’ tractor parade turns violent

The tractor parade took an ugly turn as there was confusion about the route that had been decided. The violence was condemned by various organisations.

Farmers’ tractor parade turns violent
Farmers in their tractor parade at ITO

The 72nd Republic Day had all eyes on a parade of a different kind. Delhi was brought under heavy security cover not only for the usual celebrations of January 26 but also for the farmers’ tractor parade. Thousands of security personnel were deployed in central Delhi and on the borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The call for the tractor parade had been made by the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of 41 unions, leading the protest against the three Central farm laws. Farmers have been protesting the laws on the borders of Delhi for more than two months. They demand that the laws be repealed and will not accept anything short of it. There have been 10 rounds of inconclusive talks between the central government and the farm unions so far.

It had been decided that the march would be held on Delhi's busy Outer Ring Road. The parade was supposed to be a peaceful one. But the police tried to stop the farmers from moving towards the Ring Road, said a protester. The protestors in their turn pushed through the police barricading at several places. Clashes between the police and the protesting farmers were reported. A protester died on the way, which the police said was an accident. Protestors entered the Red Fort complex and one of them hoisted a flag from its ramparts.

Leaders took note of the violent turn the protests took. Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Violence is no solution to a problem. No matter who gets hurt, it is the country that stands to lose.”

Said the SKM: “Despite all our efforts, some organisations and individuals violated route and indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We've always held that peace is our biggest strength and any violation would hurt the movement.”

Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) expressed his gratitude to the farmer brethren who participated in the parade even as he condemned the violence. “Some undesirable elements indulged in acts that led to unpleasant incidents and BKU severely condemns this.” But he held the Delhi Police administration responsible for this. “The tractor march started on the route designated by the Delhi Police but with the barricades not being placed at the places marked for them, an attempt was made to misguide the farmers’ rally. As a result, those on tractors veered towards Delhi. This gave an opportunity to undesirable elements and some organisations to make despicable attempts of creating disturbances in the rally.” However, the BKU distanced itself from any such activities and reaffirmed its faith in a non-violent movement.

Said the Aam Aadmi Party: “We strongly condemn the violence seen in today's protest. It is regrettable that the Central govt allowed the situation to deteriorate to such an extent. The movement has been peaceful for the last two months.”

The SKM called off the ‘Kisan Republic Day Parade’ in the evening and appealed to all participants to immediately return to their respective protest sites. It said the movement would continue peacefully and further steps would be discussed and decided soon.

According to sources, Home Minister Amit Shah was briefed on the clashes that erupted during the day. He reportedly ordered the police to take strict action against those who violated the parade conditions.  It is also learned that additional paramilitary forces will be deployed in Delhi in view of the seriousness of the situation seen today.

Where do we go from here? Let us wait and watch how the events unfold.