New Delhi (IANS): Protesting farmers on Tuesday swarmed the Red Fort in New Delhi during a ‘tractor rally’ here on the Republic Day even as police tried to prevent them from driving towards central Delhi.
The farmers barged into the 17th century monument, climbed up its ramparts and waved farmer union flags and banners and even hoisted a pennant.
Police and other security personnel deployed at the Red Fort could be seen lathi-charging the protesters even as the former were clearly outnumbered by the farmers.
A few youths climbed up the flagpole on the ramparts of the 17th century landmark and put up a saffron pennant with a religious symbol. Later, a few of them even climbed up further and fixed a farmer union flag near the spot where a bigger Tricolour was aflutter.
After sometime, security personnel succeeded in removing the farmers from the fort ramparts, after which they had skirmishes with the police and also chased them that led to injuries to several farmers and policemen.
Soon, the farmers left the spot and moved towards central Delhi.
All this occurred after thousands of farmers riding tractors and motorcycles thronged the busy ITO intersection and played cat-and-mouse games with the police to proceed towards India Gate.
In the meantime, a young farmer died near the ITO intersection in the central Delhi due to unknown reasons. Fellow farmers sat on protest on the spot along with the body of the deceased, who hailed from western Uttar Pradesh.
Chaos prevailed near the ITO intersection in central Delhi as hundreds of farmers rallied there to outnumber the security personnel at the spot.
Other video clips showed farmers chasing away policemen on foot as well with tractors, and trying to remove a DTC bus parked across the ITO road stretch by pushing it out of way with a tractor.
The police fired tear-gas shells and lathi-charged the protesters on different occasions as farmers remained adamant to move towards the Red Fort.
Later, Rapid Action Force and the Border Security Force was also deployed at the ITO intersection.
The farmers, after confrontation with police that lasted for around 40 minutes, moved towards Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, which houses the offices of Aam Aadmi Party, Delhi Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.
Later, farmers opened another front in Nangloi area as they removed a trailer truck parked across the road to stop them.
Hundreds of farmers overturned the trailer to make way for the tractors to enter the national capital and even damaged temporary police tents set up at Nangloi.
On Tuesday morning, a section of farmers stationed at Singhu and Tikri borders started their tractor parade much ahead of the scheduled time to enter the national capital in violation of an agreement with authorities. Skirmishes with police were reported from multiple fronts as farmers gathered at Karnal Bypass, Mukarba Chowk, Transport Nagar, Akshardham, Ghazipur and Tikri borders. Some farmers armed with swords were seen brandishing the weapons.
Police fired tear-gas shells on farmers after they entered Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar from the Delhi-Haryana border at Singhu.
Visuals of protesters riding horses were witnessed at the Karnal Bypass while others broke through barricades at Singhu and Mukarba Chowk. Some farmers damaged trucks and DTC buses parked on roads to stop them to enter towards central Delhi.
On Sunday, Delhi Police had allowed the tractor rally after the official Republic Day parade.
During their talks with the police, the protesters were told that they could not disrupt the celebrations on the Rajpath even as farmers insisted their parade would be “peaceful”.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah calls emergency meeting
UNION Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday called an emergency meeting at his residence over the violence that rocked parts of the national capital during the farmers’ Republic Day parade.
According to sources, senior officers of Delhi Police are present at the meeting that has been called to take stock of the security arrangements in Delhi.
The Home Ministry swung into action after a group of farmers swarmed the historic Red Fort, while incidents of violence were reported from the ITO area.
Taking serious note of the chain of incidents, Shah called an emergency meeting where deliberations were underway to strengthen the security apparatus.
According to intelligence inputs, some ‘organised groups’ are behind the violence.
The meeting is also trying to zero in upon the individuals responsible for triggering the violence and provoking the farmers during the tractor parade, especially those behind hoisting a pennant at Red Fort.
Besides, the security arrangements in the border areas of Delhi are also being reviewed.
As the farmers’ protest turned violent, Internet services in some of the locations in the city were stopped following the government’s instruction.
The instruction came at the request of Delhi Police that looked helpless in controlling the aggressive farmers who unexpectedly rammed police barricades and moved towards Red Fort soon after the Republic Day parade concluded.
The telecom operators like Jio, Airtel and Idea alerted their customers through messages about the disrupted Internet services.
“As per the government instructions Internet services have been stopped in your areas till further notice,” said a message received from Jio in a particular area where Internet services were barred.
The Home Ministry in an order also suspended Internet services at Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk and Nangloi, along with their adjoining areas, till 11.59 p.m. for maintaining ‘public safety’.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s reaction
Chandigarh: Terming the violence perpetrated by certain elements during Tuesday’s tractor rally in the national capital as unacceptable, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh urged all the genuine farmers to immediately vacate Delhi and return to the borders, where they had been protesting peacefully for the past two months.
The Chief Minister also ordered a high alert in Punjab amid the tension and violence in Delhi and directed Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta to ensure that law and order in the state is not disturbed at any cost.
Expressing grave concern over the situation, the Chief Minister said the violence was apparently triggered by some people who violated the rules laid down for the tractor rally through mutual agreement between the Delhi Police and the farmers’ unions.
It was unfortunate that these elements disturbed the peaceful agitation of the farmers, he said, condemning the incidents that took place at the historic Red Fort and some other key points of the national capital.
Pointing out that the major farmer leaders had already disassociated themselves from the violence, Amarinder Singh said the agitating farmers should immediately vacate the national capital and get back to their camps at the borders, and continue to engage with the Centre to resolve the crisis over the farm laws.
“Shocking scenes in Delhi. The violence by some elements is unacceptable. It’ll negate the goodwill generated by peacefully protesting farmers. Kisan leaders have disassociated themselves and suspended the tractor rally. I urge all genuine farmers to vacate Delhi and return to borders,” the Chief Minister tweeted.
Amarinder Singh also called upon the farmers to continue to exercise the restraint with which they had conducted their peaceful protest for the past two months on the borders of Delhi, and in Punjab prior to that.
Pointing out that peace had been the hallmark of their agitation, and the reason for the support they had received from across India and the world, the Chief Minister stressed on the need to maintain law and order at all costs.