From Bula Devi in New Delhi
Thousands of farmers from the borders of Delhi on Tuesday entered the capital city in tractors and passenger cars in protest against the three contentious farm laws. On the way, they clashed with the police, broke barricades amidst heavy security arrangements, braved tear gas shells and lathi charge to reach the Red Fort to coincide with Republic Day, leaving one farmer dead and many policemen injured.
Scores of farmers deviated from the agreed routes and reached ITO in front of the Delhi Police headquarters and ran amok. Another set of farmers, massive in numbers, reached the Red Fort, climbed on to a pole and hoisted a religious flag, Nishan Sahib, at the historical monument. At ITO, chaos prevailed as police could barely control such large numbers. Several policemen were seen running away as they were being chased by the protesters.
Farmer unions leaders have blamed Deep Sidhu, the campaign manager of BJP MP and Bollywood actor Sunny Deol, for inciting the protesting crowd at the Red Fort. On his Facebook page, Deep Sidhu has posted a video, saying: “We have only hoisted the Nishan Sahib at the Red Fort while exercising our democratic right to protest.” Some criticised him for turning the agitation religious.
It appears that farmer unions leaders had always doubted Deep Sidhu’s actions which is why they kept him away from their programmes. During one of the meetings of farmer unions sometime back, one of the leaders had described Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana as “enemies of this struggle”. Lakhbir Singh alias Lakha Sidhana, a gangster-turned-social activist, was reportedly seen mobilising farmers in Punjab, especially in the Malwa belt, for the tractor rally.
According to one media report, Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana took charge of the main stage at Singhu on Monday, announcing that they would hold the march “inside Delhi”.
As tension started spreading across the city, the Ministry of Home Affairs temporarily suspended internet services in the “interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency” at Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk, Nangloi and adjoining areas from 12:00 hours to 23:59 hours today. The Delhi Metro services on several lines were also halted as the situation escalated.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella front of all protesting farmers’ unions, soon distanced itself from the violence and appealed to protesting farmers to remain peaceful. Blaming “anti-social elements” for the violence, SKM condemned and regretted the “undesirable and unacceptable events” that took place, and “disassociated” themselves from those who indulged in such violent acts.
“Despite all our efforts, some organisations and individuals have violated the route and indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We have always held that peace is our biggest strength, and that any violation would hurt the movement,” said SKM in a press statement adding, “The long struggle for more than six months now, and more than 60 days of protest at Delhi borders also seemed to have led to this situation.”
Until yesterday farmers protests have been completely peaceful despite all odds, weather and otherwise, today’s events gave them huge negative publicity as a section of farmers’ unions with large numbers of supporters went berserk. However, SKM stated, “We dissociate ourselves from all such elements that have violated our discipline. We appeal strongly to everyone to stick to the route and norms of the Parade, and not indulge in any violent action or anything that taints national symbols and dignity. We appeal to everyone to desist from any such acts.”
Source- Indian Subcontinent Times, Sydney, Australia.