LIVE: Farmers call off Feb 1 march to Parliament; 2 unions withdraw from protests

Baldev Singh
·7-min read

Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Balbir S Rajewal on Wednesday said that the farmers’ march to Parliament planned for 1 February (Budget day) has been postponed due to the violence on Republic Day.

“On Martyrs' Day, we will hold public rallies across India on behalf of the farmers' agitation. We will also keep a one-day fast,” he said, according to ANI.

Earlier, in a significant development, two major farmers’ unions -- the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee -- have condemned the violence and vandalism that shamed the nation on Republic Day and decided to withdraw from farmers’ protests with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police have filed an FIR mentioning the names of 37 farmer leaders, including Medha Patkar, Buta Singh, Yogendra Yadav, Rakesh Tikait and Darshan Pal, holding them responsible for January 26 violence.

The FIR states that acts like not following mutually agreed route and timing of farmers' rally to disrupt R-Day parade were done. Farmer leaders Rajinder Singh, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Buta Singh Burjgil & Joginder Singh Ugraha too have been named in the FIR for breach of NOC issued regarding farmers' tractor rally.

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The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu), which has been protesting at the Chilla border for the last 58 days has withdrawn its protest. “I am deeply pained by whatever happened in Delhi yesterday and ending our 58-day protest,” said Bhanu Pratap Singh, president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) at Chilla border.

Echoing similar sentiments, VM Singh of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee and the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan on Wednesday, said: “I can't carry forward this protest with someone whose direction is different. I wish them best, but VM Singh & Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan are withdrawing from the protest: VM Singh, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan & All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.

With some farmers resorting to extreme violence and unprecedented vandalism on Republic Day in Delhi, which shamed the entire nation and also potentially weakened the farmers’ protests, many farm unions are uncomfortable with going ahead with criminal elements. Farmers now stand divided. The fissures amongst farmers’ unions are becoming stark, with each one accusing the other of perpetrating the violence in Delhi.

The All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee is a pan-Indian umbrella organisation comprising 250 farmers' organisations.

However, may farmers, who turned violent during their tractor rally on Republic Day, continue to be adamant, saying that they have no plans to abandon their march to the Parliament on February 1, reports say that the farmer unions could likely call off their march on Budget Day.

More than 300 police personnel were injured, two of them critically, after rioting farmers broke barriers to storm Delhi on Tuesday.

After 10 hours of mayhem and vandalism, most farmers returned to Delhi’s borders, but the situation is far from calm.

Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police in multiple places, leading to chaos in well known landmarks of Delhi and suburbs, amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the day, leaving the farmers' two-month peaceful movement in tatters.

As many as 22 FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence during the rally yesterday, said the Delhi Police on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, police removed protesting farmers from Red Fort premises 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.

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.

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.


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