iNDICA NEWS BUREAU
Breaking barricades to ride into India’s national capital on tractors and motorbikes through tear-gas shells fired by police, protesting farmers swarmed the historic Red Fort in Delhi on India’s Republic Day — the day the country celebrates with pomp and pageantry.
The farmers — who have been on a long-standing protest demanding repeal of three new farm laws enacted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — barged into the 17th century monument in north Delhi, 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 baton-charging the protesters even though the farmers clearly outnumbered the men in uniform.
A few youths climbed up the flagpole on the ramparts of the Mughal landmark and put up a saffron pennant with a religious symbol, the Sikh nishan. Later, a few of them even climbed up further and fixed a farmer-union flag near the spot where a bigger Indian flag was aflutter higher.
After some time, security personnel succeeded in removing the farmers from the fort ramparts. The skirmishes led to injuries to several farmers and policemen.
Soon, the farmers left the spot and moved towards central Delhi.
From the morning, thousands of farmers riding tractors and motorcycles thronged the busy ITO intersection of the Indian capital city and played cat-and-mouse games with the police to proceed towards India Gate.
A young farmer died near the ITO intersection in the central Delhi, and there were conflicting reports on the reason for death. Farmers sat in protest at the spot along with the body of the protester, who was from western Uttar Pradesh.
Other video clips showed farmers chasing away policemen on foot as well with tractors, and trying to remove a bus parked across the ITO road stretch by pushing it out of way with a tractor.
The police fired tear-gas shells on and baton-charged protesting farmers on multiple occasions.
Later, Rapid Action Force and the Border Security Force were also deployed at the ITO.
On Sunday, the 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 official celebrations on the Rajpath in central New Delhi.
Farmers insisted their parade would be peaceful.
Internet services in some locations in Delhi were stopped on Tuesday following the government’s instruction to manage the situation.
Telecom operators like Jio, Airtel and Idea alerted their customers through messages about the disrupted Internet services.
FARMER UNIONS DENY
Farmer leaders under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha spearheading the protest against the three new farm laws said that farmers of 32 unions from Punjab were following the routes for the tractor rally defined by the Delhi police and they did not break the law and order.
Leaders of several farmers’ unions distanced themselves from the group that swarmed the Red Fort.
“We are following the set routes,” said Kripa Singh, a leader from the Kisan Bachao Morcha from Punjab.
Asked about the Red Fort incident, he said: “It is the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Commitee which broke the rules.”
Major Singh Punewal, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, said that some unsocial elements were trying to spoil the farmers’ agitation.
(With inputs from IANS)