Violent farmers run riot in Delhi, storm Red Fort; cops use tear gas; 1 dead as tractor overturns

Baldev Singh
·6-min read

Police removed protesting farmers from Red Fort premises on Tuesday where they had barged in after deviating from their planned route for the tractor parade and hoisted flags at the iconic monument in Delhi.

The police later resorted to a mild lathi-charge to vacate the Red Fort premises after continuously requesting the protesters to leave the complex peacefully.

Meanwhile, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 farmer unions leading the protests against the farm laws, has ‘called off’ the tractor rally with immediate effect and has appealed to all participants to immediately return to their respective protest sites.

Extra paramilitary forces are likely to be deployed in the national capital, following the meeting between Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Home Secretary and Delhi Commissioner of Police, after violence broke out during Tractor Rally on 26 January.

1 protestor killed as tractor overturns during violent protest

Meanwhile, one protestor died after a tractor overturned at Delhi's DDU Marg during the violent protest by farmers on Tuesday. Many protestors were seen driving tractors at high speed trying to run over policemen and media personnel.

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Earlier, Delhi Police were forced to use tear gas to disperse unruly and armed farmer protestors in the national capital as they attacked cops with swords and lathis and broke barricades with tractors, violating all their promises of a peaceful and disciplined rally, to force their way into Delhi, reports said.

Rioting and vandalism

Hundreds of protesters, armed with swords, lathis and other weapons, attacked the police as they broke away from the main route of the tractor protest to head for New Delhi, compelling an outnumbered and restrained police force to log tear gas shells at the violent protestors.

As soon as the situation began to spiral out of control, farmer leaders feigned helplessness and shunned all responsibility as huge mobs of farmers breached the agreement of a peaceful rally.

Armed with iron rods, swords, lathis, stones and other weapons, hundreds of protestors attacked the police. Violent rioters vandalised many buses and police vehicles, brandished swords and hurled stones at cops forcing them to lathicharge and use tear gas.

The protestors damaged public property, attacking the media and asking them to take the cameras away. The situation is extremely tense and it appears that the farmers are itching for a major showdown with the security forces so that issue spiral entirely out of control.

Reporters on the ground said that this is no longer a peaceful protest against agriculture reform bills, but a full-blown riot that seemed to have been pre-planned. Ugly scenes of farmers damaging public property, resorting to unprovoked violence, breaching all the pacts they made and creating a huge ruckus in the national capital on India’s 72nd Republic Day is likely to weaken their agitation as sympathy in their favour is bound to vanish, said reports.

The Delhi Police had been engaging with the farmers, asking them to stick to the rally route which was agreed upon and not to attack cops or damage property, but the protestors were unwilling to yield or see reason.

Reuters said these farmers commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down road blocks miles from routes approved by the police, forcing constables in riot gear to fall back and let them pass.

The Delhi Police had allowed permission for the tractor rally between 12.00 pm and 5.00 pm. Farmer unions, opposing the three farm laws, had also said their parade will not enter central Delhi and will start only after the official Republic Day parade concludes, but these groups of farmers have decided not to abide by the promises made earlier and began their rally from 8.00 am, breaking through barricades.

Farmers at Delhi's three protest sites -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points planned a massive tractor rally against the farm laws. The routes were to cover over 100 kilometres of distance in the national capital.

Yogendra Yadav appeals for peace, hours after the violence began

Earlier in the day, security personnel tried to convince the farmers that they have been given permission to hold their tractor parade in Delhi after the Republic Day parade at the Rajpath concludes.

'But some groups of farmers did not relent and started moving towards the Outer Ring Road breaking police barricades,' an official said.

A member of the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 unions, leading the protest against the three Central farm laws at several border points of Delhi, said those who broke the barricades belonged to the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee.

He said the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha's tractor parade will start as scheduled after the police give farmers the nod. The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee on Monday announced that they would hold their march on Delhi's busy Outer Ring Road on Republic Day.

The protesting unions have also announced a foot march to Parliament on February 1, when the annual Budget is presented, to press for their demands including a repeal of the three new agriculture laws.

Heavy security has been deployed in view of the 'Kisan Gantantra Parade' that will move into Delhi from the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points.

Tens of thousands of farmers had gathered on the outskirts of New Delhi, ahead of a tractor procession aimed at protesting a controversial set of agricultural laws.

Thousands more, on tractors decorated with the flags of India and farm unions, have been streaming into the capital from neighbouring states for several days ahead of the rally that coincides with India's Republic Day.

"We will follow the instructions of our leaders and conduct a peaceful march," said Sukhjinder Singh, a 30-year-old protestor from Punjab at Singhu, one of the main protest sites.

Around half of India's population works in agriculture, and unrest among the estimated 150 million land-owning farmers represents one of the biggest challenges to the authority of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.

Eleven rounds of talks between the two sides have failed to end the protests. The government's offer to delay the farm laws for 18 months has been rejected by farm leaders, who want a total repeal of the laws.

"The farm organizations have a very strong hold," said Ambar Kumar Ghosh, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think-tank. "They have the resources to mobilize support, and to continue the protest for a long time. They have also been very successful in keeping the protest really focused."

Police have allowed farmers to rally along pre-approved routes on the outskirts of Delhi on Tuesday.

But the tractor march threatens to overshadow the annual Republic Day military parade in the centre of the capital, held to mark the anniversary of the introduction of India's Constitution in 1950.

"They (farmers) could have chosen any other day instead of January 26 but they have announced now," India's Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told local media on Monday.

"Conducting the rally peacefully without any accident would be the concern for farmers as well as police administration." The protests have so far been peaceful, and farm leaders have urged participants in Tuesday's rally to refrain from violence.


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