The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the central and Delhi governments to respond to a plea that has sought an independent investigation into the attack on a farmers’ camp at the Singhu border on January 29, PTI reported.

Last year, farmers stormed into the bordering areas of the capital between November 25 and 26 braving barricades, batons and tear gas, to protest against the Centre’s farming legislature they dubbed as “black laws”. Since then, thousands of them have settled down with their tractors and trolleys at Singhu and Tikri areas bordering Haryana and at Ghazipur bordering Uttar Pradesh.

On January 29, a mob of around 200 people, who claimed to be locals of the area, barged into the Singhu protest site and vandalised it. The farmers retaliated, and stones were pelted by demonstrators from both sides.

Justice Mukta Gupta issued notices to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Delhi government’s home department and the Alipur police station, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, and sought their response.

The petition sought an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team and said that the January 29 violence was by some miscreants “with assistance and guidance of the police personnel” who were stationed at the border. It added that though a criminal complaint was filed at the Alipur police station against some miscreants and Delhi Police officers, there has been no FIR so far.

Despite sending requests for a proper inquiry to the Central Bureau of Investigation, the chief justice of India, the National Commission for Women and the National Human Rights Commission, nothing has happened, the petition added.

It added that the video footage of the incidents at the protest site on January 29 was covered by police cameras and must be preserved.

The violence

The January 29 violence happened despite heavy security deployment in the area. It was unclear how the group of people managed to enter the site of the farmers’ protest, where journalists and even water tankers were not allowed to enter.

The people who entered the area tried to vandalise the tents pitched by farmers. The police initially did not try to stop the group, according to reports. But once the situation escalated, the police resorted to the use tear gas shells and baton-charged the demonstrators.

The violence was sparked by people claiming that protestors masquerading as farmers had insulted the Indian national flag at the Red Fort during a tractor rally days earlier, on Republic Day. They claimed that protestors had replaced the tricolour with Sikh flags even though several fact-check articles had noted that this had not happened.

The protests

Farmers on the border areas of Delhi and in states such as Punjab and Haryana organised demonstrations on Wednesday to mark six months of their protest against the Centre’s three agricultural laws passed by Parliament last year. They hoisted black flags, shouted slogans and burnt effigies of government leaders.

The farmers have bitterly opposed the laws and believe that the laws will dismantle price safeguards and leave them at the mercy of corporations. Meanwhile, the Centre has maintained that the farm laws will provide more flexibility for farmers to sell their produce and improve crop pricing.

In January, nearly two months into the protest movement, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws. At the time, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha had rejected the court-appointed committee and termed the experts on the panel as “pro-government”. They also said that the committee had not contacted them to hold any consultations.

Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22. Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again.