Former Indian Navy chief (Retired) Admiral L Ramdas on Friday wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, expressing sadness over the violence that took place during the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally. Ramdas said that the violence and security lapses during the rally needed immediate investigation by an impartial and high-level inquiry commission.

The former Navy chief also noted that mainstream media ignored the fact that most of the protestors remained peaceful, and instead fixed attention on a group hoisting flags at the Red Fort. He also spoke out against the filing of first information reports against farmer leaders and journalists.

On Tuesday, a tractor parade of farmers to coincide with Republic Day celebrations turned into chaos when some farmers diverged from agreed routes, and broke through barricades. The situation escalated when the police responded by using tear gas and batons on the protestors.

Here is the full text of Ramdas’ letter to the president:

Dear President and Supreme Commander, Shri Kovind ji, I am writing to you, as my Supreme Commander, to inform you that I am deeply concerned and saddened by the turn of events on Republic Day three days ago.

A few days back I had made an appeal over video and in writing, to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Kisan Andolan, calling attention to my fear that the situation with regard to the farmers is at a cross roads, with possible far reaching fall out, and therefore calls for urgent and mature handling. 

My appeal was in response to the announcement by the Kisan Unions of their intention to take out a Tractor Parade in the Capital on the occasion of Republic Day, since many rounds of negotiations had failed to yield results acceptable to the farmers. This was to be a peaceful rally and it would not interfere with the usual Republic Day ceremonial Parade on Raj Path. Please see the link below: GxRtd1-tc 

Farmers are only requesting that they should have been consulted before passing of certain laws which affects them and their livelihood. This was not done. Farmers and agricultural experts alike, fear that the laws in their current form will favour corporate interests and go against the interests of the farmers.

Their primary demands were that the three farm laws passed by the Centre in September 2020, should be repealed and followed by detailed consultations and discussions before any new reforms/laws are announced. Whether or not these fears are justified, the situation called for utmost sensitivity. This needed a willingness to listen and act in such a manner that the many real fears from farmer groups regarding MSP, Mandi system, unfair pressure from very large private interests, could be discussed at length, with participation from the affected groups and the states.

Alas between the honorable SC and a Centre unwilling to consider this legitimate request, the farmers groups decided to use Republic Day as an appropriate date on which to showcase their stand and needs before the nations’ capital – which they saw as their capital too.

 My letter to the Prime Minister made the following appeals : 1) That the 3 Farm Laws be repealed 2)  That the Kisan Leaders call off the protests after the laws are repealed 3) That the Kisan Tractor Rally be permitted to take place and Kisans be able to celebrate their Republic Day as also pay their respects to their relatives in the armed forces who have laid down their lives in defence of their country.

In an earlier message, I have also pointed out that in almost every Kisan home there is a Jawan, who guards the frontiers and returns to the land after his tour of duty. This relationship should never be forgotten. Antagonizing kisans and therefore jawans, can have serious fall outs and the implications on national security cannot be overlooked.

It is also very clear that the bulk of farmers in the protests around Delhi were from Punjab and Haryana – followed by the other North Indian states – [primarily because of their proximity and contiguous locations]. However it is equally clear, that in some form or other the problems of agrarian distress – brought to a head by the abrupt promulgation of these laws – affects the farming community across the country. 

It is tragic that the peaceful and orderly procession of tractors and human beings on foot, comprising 90% of the protestors, was almost totally unreported in mainstream media on the 26th and 27th. What was reported and repeatedly shown on channels and in the print media too, was the incident of a flag being hoisted after the ‘occupation’ of the Lal Qila, by a small group of young men apparently led by one Deep Singh Sidhu. There were also false reports about the Tricolour being brought down and displaced by a ‘religious’ flag. 

I know that the Red Fort has always been well fortified with adequate security arrangements – more so on days like Aug 15 and January 26. As a service officer I have attended several functions at Lal Qila and therefore am also aware that it is by no means easy or possible for any unauthorized person or group to climb right up to the space just below the ramparts. There are many barriers and gates to be negotiated on the way in. These gates are normally kept locked. So where were the security arrangements to protect the iconic national monument on January 26 this year? The Army battalion which is normally housed inside the Fort appeared to be missing ? Clearly this was a major security lapse and this needs an immediate and thorough inquiry to establish reasons for this serious breach of security. 

The media and some sources in the Government, as well as political leaders, are openly accusing ‘farmers’ and the protestors of insulting the Nation and the National Flag, inciting and indulging in violence, being anti national and anti the Republic . This is primarily because of the highly exaggerated and one sided media portrayal, of what had actually transpired. Please see the clip below : 

Subsequently it is also distressing to hear that a large number of FIRs have been registered by the Delhi police against farmers, farmer leaders, and now well known journalists and others on several grounds including the serious charge of sedition. 

There are too many reports circulating regarding apparent collusion by security forces, a small rebel farmer group and some individuals with high level political connections, who were chosen as agents provocateurs to gain easy entry into the Fort. They were thus able to deliberately disrupt an otherwise orderly and peaceful parade and rally by lakhs of farmers, as indeed had been agreed between farmers and police. 

These unfortunate incidents, as indeed the serious lapses in security, need to be immediately investigated by an impartial, high level Commission of Enquiry, if indeed some modicum of order and assurance of dignity is to be restored to lakhs among the farming community across the country. 

I am one of the senior most former Heads of Service alive today, and also perhaps one of the few to have witnessed the first Independence and Republic Days. I have now lived and farmed in a village in Maharashtra for 27 years post retirement. I am 87 years of age and I am no longer able to travel or take a more active role in public life. As a senior citizen and a veteran, I have been trying by way of letters like this, to share my concerns with you, and through you Sir, to the Government. I consider it my duty and responsibility to bring these issues to you and to my fellow countrymen and women. If people like myself are silent today, future generations will never forgive us for not speaking out and standing up for the promises made in our Constitution when we became a Republic. 

Mr President, as my Supreme Commander, I urge you again to kindly take note of the issues raised in this letter and to take action urgently on a matter which deserves utmost priority. Already over 170 farmers have laid down their lives for this cause over the last two months. “They have truly awakened the entire Nation”. 

As head of our Republic, you Sir are in a unique position to be able to stem the tide of this terrible divide between kisans, jawans and our people – and use your position and your sagacity to bring back justice and peace. This will be a great service to the people of this land and beyond. 

From all accounts, it appears that the world is watching.   

— Former Indian Navy chief (Retired) Admiral L Ramdas

Also read:

Delhi is our capital too’: A blow-by-blow account of the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day