The Delhi Police on Monday arrested a 21-year-old farmer from Amritsar for his alleged involvement in the violence at the Red Fort during the farmers’ tractor rally against the agricultural laws in January, The Indian Express reported.
Gurjot Singh belongs to Punjab’s Taran Taran district. He is the 17th person to be arrested in connection with the case, according to the Hindustan Times. Sanjeev Yadav, deputy commissioner of police (special cell), told the newspaper that a reward of Rs 1 lakh had been announced for information leading to his arrest.
Thousands of protestors had participated in a huge rally in Delhi on Republic Day to call for the repeal of the contentious farm laws. Some groups broke through barricades and clashed with the police, who used tear gas and batons to push them back.
Some protestors also forced their way into the Red Fort, climbed its ramparts and hoisted the Nishan Sahib, a religious flag that flies atop gurudwaras.
The Delhi Police claimed the incident was was a “deep-rooted conspiracy” to embarrass India. They filed a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the incident and invoked sedition charges. Actor-activist Deep Sidhu and several others were named in the chargesheet filed in the case.
Unidentified officials said the man arrested on Monday had spoken to the media after the incident and the police identified him from video footage, according to The Indian Express. They claimed that he went back to his village after the incident and turned his mobile phone off.
“Several teams of northern range conducted raids in Punjab and they finally found him in Amritsar,” the officials said, according to the newspaper. “He is accused of being involved in hoisting the religious flags at the Red Fort. However, during interrogation, he has denied all charges and claimed that Jugraj [another accused in the case] was the man behind what happened and he was just standing with the crowd.”
Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that the central government repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. On Saturday, they marked seven months of their movement with a protest march.
The farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislations are pro-farmer.
The central government and the farmers have held 11 rounds of talks on the matter since December, but no consensus has been reached so far.
As the talks with the Centre failed to yield results, the farmers intensified their agitation with the tractor rally on Republic Day. One person was killed and over 300 police officers were injured during the rally.
The police and the government clamped down on the farmers’ agitation after the violence. Barricades were erected at protest sites and internet services were suspended. Police complaints were filed against farmer leaders and journalists, and hundreds of protestors were arrested.