United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said it is important to respect peaceful and non-violent protests in the wake of the violence that erupted during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on Tuesday, PTI reported.
In response to a question on the clashes in India, Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “As we say in many of these cases, I think it’s important to respect peaceful protests, freedom of assembly and non-violence.”
Farmers have been protesting at the borders of Delhi for the past two months demanding that the government rolls back the new agricultural laws that they say will hurt their livelihoods and help big companies. The government, which says the agriculture reforms will boost farmer incomes, has agreed to suspend the laws, but the farmers have said New Delhi must repeal them.
The farmers entered the Capital for the first time on Tuesday, to hold a tractor rally on Republic Day. Some protestors broke away from the pre-planned route of the protest, and stormed the Red Fort complex to demand the repeal of the farm laws.
The Delhi Police had prescribed three routes for the tractor rallies, which the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella group of farmer unions, had accepted. The Morcha also agreed to start the rallies after noon in order to avoid interfering with the official Republic Day parade at Rajpath. But some farmers found the curtailed route and timings unacceptable. They decided to start early, and by 9 am on Tuesday, protestors began to dismantle barricades to reach Delhi’s Ring Road.
The situation escalated when the police responded by using tear-gas and batons on the protestors. The most dramatic scenes of the day emerged at the ITO area in Delhi, where the protestors and police came face to face. Angered by the police action, thousands of farmers stormed into the Red Fort complex. Some of them scaled the walls of the fort and hoisted other flags next to the tricolour.
By evening, one protestor was killed, internet services were suspended in many parts, and the Delhi Police said over 300 of its officers had been injured across the city. Farm leaders, who had promised their march would be peaceful, distanced themselves from the violence and appealed to the protestors to return to the campsites at the Capital’s borders.
On Wednesday, the Delhi Police detained around 200 protestors on charges of rioting, damaging public property and attacking its personnel. Twenty-two FIRs were lodged in connection with the violence. The police have also filed a first information report against six farmer leaders in connection with the violence.