Chaos ensued in the national Capital on Tuesday as a section of the farmers protesting against the new agriculture laws entered Delhi to hold a tractor rally and were met with tear gas and baton-charge by the police.
As the dust somewhat settled by the evening, one protestor had reportedly died, internet services were suspended in several parts of the city, four cases of vandalism were registered, and multiple metro stations were shut temporarily. At least 83 police personnel and several farmers were injured and around 26 people, including both farmers and police personnel, were admitted in hospitals in Delhi.
How it started
The unrest began after police on Tuesday morning tried to stop some of the protestors from entering the Capital, as part of the earlier announced tractor rally. On their part, these protestors flouted the timing and route of the rally, which was agreed upon by the Delhi Police and farmer unions, NDTV reported.
The rally was scheduled to be held between 12 pm and 5 pm, but the protestors began the tractor parade much earlier. The farmers broke barricades put up by the police around 9 am on Tuesday and entered the Capital through Singhu and Tikri borders, reported NDTV.
“The protesters violated conditions fixed for the rally,” Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Eish Singhal, told PTI. “The farmers began tractor rally before the scheduled time, they also resorted to violence and vandalism.”
Soon after, the police fired tear gas at the farmers, triggering the first flash point between the two sides. The farmers kept marching ahead, breaking barricades on their way.
More visuals of police using force to stop the rally emerged, as the protestors reached Akshardham area of Delhi. In a video posted on social media by a farmers’ body, police could be seen firing tear gas shells from atop an over-bridge.
Clash at ITO
The most dramatic scenes of the day, however, emerged at the ITO area, where the protestors and police came face to face. The farmers broke down barricades put up in the heart of the city and chased away policemen, while riding their tractors.
One of the protestors died at ITO, reportedly after his tractor overturned, according to PTI. However, farmer unions claimed that he was killed in police firing. The police are yet to comment on this.
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Meanwhile, the Delhi Metro authorities decided to shut entry and exit points at several stations, in view of the unrest.
Protestors entered Red Fort
Following the clash at ITO, the protestors then marched on to Red Fort, as more farmers joined the rally, according to PTI.
One of the protestors climbed the ramparts of the Red Fort and hoisted a flag bearing the “Nishan Sahib”, a symbol of Sikh religion. However, contrary to some of the media reports, the tricolour was not taken down by the protestors.
About 90 minutes later, the police baton-charged the area and vacated the Red Fort premises. Meanwhile, the Union home ministry suspended internet till Tuesday midnight at Singhu border, Ghazipur border, Tikri border, Mukarba Chowk and Nangloi areas of the Capital.
Home minister takes stock, politicians criticise violence
Union Home Minister Amit Shah met with Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Delhi Police Commissioner SN Srivastava and other officials in the afternoon to discuss and review the security situation, according to NDTV. Following the meeting, Shah ordered deployment of paramilitary forces in the Capital, according to the Hindustan Times.
Four cases of vandalism have been registered so far, as eight buses and 17 private vehicles were damaged during the tractor rally, ANI reported quoting the police. Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police Alok Kumar said that legal action will be taken against those who assaulted the police personnel during the rally.
Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Anil Mittal told PTI that as many as 86 personnel of the force had sustained injuries during the clashes. At least 20 people, including both farmers and police personnel were admitted to the Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi, according to IANS, while six people were in the emergency emergency department at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, reported the Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, leaders across political parties took exception to the outbreak of violence in the protests. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that violence was not a solution and urged the Narendra Modi government to put an end to the situation by repealing the laws.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of the farmers’ unions also distanced itself from the violence and called the acts “undesirable and unacceptable”, ANI reported.
“Despite all our efforts, some organisations and individuals violated route and indulged in condemnable acts,” the group said. “Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We’ve always held that peace is our biggest strength and any violation would hurt the movement.”
Farm law protests
Tens of thousands of farmers had been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi for over two months, before entering the city on Tuesday. The farmers demand the repeal of the three agricultural laws passed in September. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural.
The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.