Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and several other politicians criticised the violence in Delhi during the farmers’ massive tractor rally on Republic Day to protest the three agricultural laws.
Dramatic scenes unfolded in the Capital as the protestors clashed with the police, who used tear gas and batons to control them. At Delhi’s busy ITO area, farmers broke down barricades and chased away policemen on their tractors. One of the protestors died at ITO, reportedly after his tractor overturned, according to PTI.
The protestors also marched on to Red Fort. One of them climbed the ramparts 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.
Singh said that violence caused by “certain elements” was unacceptable. “It’ll negate goodwill generated by peacefully protesting farmers,” he tweeted. “Kisan leaders have disassociated themselves and suspended Tractor Rally. I urge all genuine farmers to vacate Delhi and return to borders.”
Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party blamed the Centre for letting the situation deteriorate. “The [farmers’] movement has been peaceful for the last two months,” the party said in a statement. “Farmer leaders have said that those who indulged in violence today were not part of the movement and were external elements. Whoever they were, the violence has certainly weakened the movement which was going on so peacefully.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that violence was not the solution to anything. “Whoever gets hurt, it is the country which will suffer damage,” he tweeted. “Take the anti-farmer laws back for the benefit of the country.”
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said the Centre did not take the farmers’ agitation seriously, ANI reported. “As [the farmers’] restraint ended, the tractor march was taken out,” he said. “Centre’s responsibility was to keep law and order in control but they failed.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Centre’s “insensitive attitude and indifference” towards the farmers was to blame for the tense situation in Delhi. “First, these laws were passed without taking farmers in confidence,” she added. “And then despite protests across India and farmers camping near Delhi for last 2 months, they’ve been extremely casual in dealing with them. Centre should engage with the farmers and repeal the draconian laws.”
Meanwhile, the farmers’ unions distanced themselves from those who indulged in violence. “Despite all our efforts, some organisations and individuals violated route and indulged in condemnable acts,” the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said, according to ANI. “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.”
Tens of thousands of farmers had been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi in the intense cold for over two months, before entering the city on Tuesday. The farmers demand the repeal of the three agricultural laws passed in September. They 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.