The Delhi Police on Wednesday detained around 200 protestors on charges of rioting, damaging public property and attacking its personnel, during a tractor rally organised by farmers on Republic Day, reported The Indian Express. Twenty-two first information reports were lodged in connection with the violence, the police said.
Unprecedented scenes unfolded on Tuesday when thousands of protestors broke away from the pre-planned route of the protest, and stormed the Red Fort complex to demand the repeal of new farm laws. The Delhi Police said more than 300 of its personal were injured in clashes, reported PTI.
An official said CCTV footage and videos were being scanned to identify farmers involved in the violence. Strict action will be taken against the responsible, he added.
Eight buses and 17 private vehicles were vandalised in the massive protests that also forced the shutting down of several metro stations, the police added, according to NDTV. Internet services were suspended in many areas of the Capital and its adjoining areas.
The injured personnel were admitted to several hospitals in the city. The Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital admitted 38 police personnel, the Civil Line hospital 11, the Aruna Asif Hospital eight and the Tirath Ram Shah Hospital and the Lady Hardinge four each. Police officials were admitted to Maharaja Aggarsen hospital, Tarak Hospital, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital and Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.
The farmers and the police clashed at several points, including ITO and the Red Fort, where farmers scaled the building to raise Sikh flags. The police claimed that the farmers broke through barricades, fought them and overturned vehicles and did not stick to the pre-decided route for the rally.
“The farmers began tractor rally before the scheduled time,” said Eish Singhal, the public relation officer of the Delhi Police, according to the Hindustan Times. “They also resorted to violence and vandalism. We followed all conditions as promised and did our due diligence but the protest led to extensive damage to public property.” Joint Commissioner of Police Alok Kumar said legal action will be taken against those who assaulted the police personnel.
Visuals from many areas showed the protestors clashing with the police personnel, who resorted to tear gases and baton-charging to quell the agitation. In some areas, the farmers outnumbered the police. One farmer also died in the incident after his tractor overturned near ITO. Farmers have, however, alleged that he died in police firing.
The police blamed the protestors for instigating violence. “Despite persuasion by Delhi Police, the farmers led by Nihangs on their horses fully equipped with deadly weapons like swords, kripans and fursas charged the police and broke the several layers of barricades, which were erected between Mukarba Chowk and Transport Nagar,” a police statement read, according to NDTV.
Samyukt Kisan Morch, an umbrella body of the 40 farmers’ unions, called off the tractor rally and said that their movement will continue peacefully. They disassociated themselves from the violence and appealed for peace. The body has blamed “anti-social elements” for the incident.
“Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement,” the body said in a statement. “We have always held that peace is our biggest strength and that any violation would hurt the movement.”
Following the violence, Union Home Minister has ordered extra paramilitary force to be deployed in the national Capital. Various politicians, including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, condemned the violence.
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 the agricultural sector.
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.