Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that the country was saddened to witness the way some protestors had “insulted the tricolour” on January 26 when a tractor rally by farmers to protest against the new agricultural laws turned into chaos.

“On 23 January, we celebrated the birthday of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as ‘Parakram Divas’ and on 26 January we also saw a spectacular parade of Republic Day,” Modi said in his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat. “In the midst of all this, the country was saddened to see the insult of the tricolour in Delhi on January 26.”

However, fact-checking websites have pointed out that the tricolour was not taken down by the protestors on Tuesday. One of the protestors had climbed the ramparts of the Red Fort to unfurl the Nishan Sahib, a religious flag that flies atop gurudwaras, next to the tricolour.

Without elaborating further, the prime minister in his address urged citizens to “fill the future with new hope and newness”. “We showed exceptional restraint and courage last year,” he added, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic. “This year too, we have to prove our resolve by working hard.”

During his radio address, Modi said that his government was committed to modernising farming and was taking steps for the same, reported PTI.

For over two months, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of Delhi to demand the withdrawal of the three new farm laws. The protests had been largely peaceful, but on January 26, a tractor parade of farmers on Republic Day turned into chaos when some farmers diverged from agreed routes. At least one protestor was killed and over 300 police officers were injured in the violence.

Some protestors broke through barricades and poured into the city, clashing with the police that tried to push them back with tear gas and a baton charge. A section of the farmers stormed inside the Red Fort complex and hoisted the religious flag.

On January 29, President Ram Nath Kovind, too, had said that it was unfortunate that the farmers “insulted the tricolour” by hoisting a religious flag next to it. The president was speaking on the first day of the Budget session of Parliament. Kovind had said the Constitution of India gives citizens the right to express themselves, but it also teaches us that law and rule should be followed.

Coronavirus pandemic

In his 73rd episode of Mann Ki Baat, the prime minister also hailed India’s coronavirus inoculation drive. He added that India’s self-reliance in medicines was helping the world.

“India is not only running the world’s biggest vaccination drive but we are also the fastest in vaccinating our citizens,” Modi said. “In just 15 days, we have vaccinated over 30 lakh corona warriors. In comparison, the United States took 18 days, and the United Kingdom took 36.”

On 75 years of Independence

The prime minister said that it was a matter of great pride that India will celebrate 75 years of Independence this year. “In this context, this is an excellent time to explore places associated with those heroes on account of whom we attained freedom,” Modi added, according to NDTV.

He urged citizens, especially the youth, to write about freedom fighters and India’s freedom struggle. “An initiative has been taken for Young Writers for the purpose of India Seventy-Five,” Modi said. “Write books about the saga of valour during the period of freedom struggle in your area.”

Modi also touched upon the Padma awards announced last week, and said the country has continued the recent tradition of honouring unsung heroes.