The 26th of January 2021, will go down in history. The day that marks the Republic Day, saw protests in the heart of Delhi that was bound to bring back images from the past, before Independence. The irony was certainly not lost on anyone.
The day began with the historic parade near Red Fort, co-ordinated and majestic, as the nation watched it glued to their screens. Meanwhile, a storm was brewing at the borders of Delhi. Three routes were cleared for the farmers to hold the parade – 63-km route near Singhu Border, 62.5 km-long route from Tikri border, a 68-km long route from Ghazipur border that divides Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. However, some of the groups deviated from the planned route and entered the iconic Red Fort and ITO in the heart of the national capital. As the farmers tried to cross over the barricades, the police in a show of strength immediately fired teargas and started a violent lathi-charge to intimidate the farmers and drive them back. At around 12:40 the first confrontation between the police forces and the farmers took place at the Delhi ITO. In visuals emerging from ITO, one of the main intersections in Delhi near media offices and the police headquarters, policemen in riot gear appeared to be outnumbered. The policemen were seen running or hiding behind cars as farmers armed with sticks chased them.
Soon, thousands of protesters broke through barricades, attacked policemen with sticks, and vandalized a police vehicle after deviating from the agreed route of a farmers’ tractor rally and reaching the heart of Delhi and making their way to the Red Fort.
At Nangloi, violent clashes were taking place in the meanwhile, with the police hugely outnumbered resorting to heavy teargassing. But that wasn’t enough. The sheer number of farmers who had been protesting for months at the cold borders of Delhi had finally lost their patience after the government refused to ban the Farm laws that had the potential to privatize the farming sector and give all the bargaining power to the corporates in an already skewed market where farmers rarely ever got fair prices for their produce.
By 2 pm, thousands of farmers had reached Red Fort. Visuals from the spot showed them climbing a flagpole below the ramparts of the iconic Mughal fort, from where the Prime Minister addresses the nation on Independence Day. As tractors took over the Ramlila Maidan outside the fort — the original site where they had planned their protest — farmers were heard saying that they will not leave Delhi now.
Protesting farmers claim that they had communicated to police about their plans to go to Ring Road. “We always had plans to go to Ring Road and the message was conveyed much before,” a protesting farmer tells NDTV’s Mariyam Alavi atop a tractor entering Delhi from Singhu border.
Soon, police intervention took place, and after a few rounds of talks, the protestors and the police seemed to have reached a consensus as the union leaders requested the farmers to slowly vacate the Red Fort. It was then that the police resorted to lathi-charge again on the Red Fort premises. With that, the violent turn of events came to an end which also saw the death of a protestor and injuries on both sides.
Later in the day, the farmer’s union released an official statement.
“We thank farmers for the unprecedented participation in today’s Farmers Republic Day Parade. We also condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts. Despite all our efforts, some orgs & individuals violated the route & indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We’ve always held that peace is our biggest strength& any violation would hurt the movement”: Samyukta Kisan Morcha
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor condemned the act and said although he supports the farmers” protest, he cannot condone lawlessness.
Most unfortunate. I have supported the farmers’ protests from the start but I cannot condone lawlessness. And on #RepublicDay no flag but the sacred tiranga should fly aloft the Red Fort. https://t.co/C7CjrVeDw7
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 26, 2021
“Most unfortunate. I have supported the farmers” protests from the start but I cannot condone lawlessness. And on Republic Day no flag but the sacred tiranga should fly aloft the Red Fort,” Mr. Tharoor tweeted.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has slammed the Central Government saying, the government didn’t listen to the protesting farmers till the end. “Was the government eagerly waiting for this day? The government did not listen to millions of farmers till the end. What type of democracy is flourishing in our country? This is not a democracy, brother…something else is going on. Jai Hind,” he tweeted.
As the situation seems to get stretched out with no solution visible, the country eagerly awaits a statement addressing the farmers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has in times of crisis always addressed the nation. From announcing a lockdown of the entire country at 4 hours notice that led millions of people into poverty to asking the nation to light candles and bang utensils to get rid of the coronavirus, to banning apps as an apt reply to China for infiltrating our country, the nation once again looks forward to the Prime Minister and his cabinet to come up with a solution that would relieve the pain of the farmers.