Thousands of agitating farmers drove tractors and marched on foot into the national capital hours before the permitted time for tractor march, breaking police barriers and clashing with security forces who resorted to firing tear gas shells.
The farmers began their Kisan Ganatantra Parade at around 8:00 am, hours before the agreed time of 12:00 noon, and changing routes to enter Central Delhi, taking police by surprise.
Waving the national tricolour and kisan union flags, farmers had started gathering in huge numbers at the Ghazipur, Singhu, Tikri and Chilla border points since early Tuesday morning, leading to some anxious scenes and arguments with the police.
Around 8:00 am the farmers broke barriers at Singhu and Tikri borders and began marching into the national capital, taking out a parallel parade to the official Republic Day celebrations on the Rajpath.
“We will be moving towards India Gate. Of what use are rules when they are created to trouble us?” Chaudhary Baldev Singh, a farmer from Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh, told DH as he walked along with the group of farmers.
Security forces were far outnumbered and reduced to bystanders as tractors continued to roll into the capital from various border points.
At Nangloi Chowk in west Delhi and at Mukarba Chowk farmers broke cemented barricades and police used tear gas to disperse them. The protesting farmers also reached Delhi's ITO area, a few kilometres away from Parliament.
This DH correspondent witnessed several hundreds of tractors at the Ghazipur border point, which was considered as a minor protest site when compared to Singhu and Tikri, where farmers from Punjab and Haryana had gathered in huge numbers since November 26.
On Monday, the Delhi Police had spelt out 37 conditions for the Kisan Parade that was to set out from four border points – Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur and Chilla, the latter two being the border points between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
Police lathi-charged farmers at Chintamani Chowk in Shahdara when they broke barricades and smashed window panes of cars. A group of 'Nihangs' (traditional Sikh warriors) clashed with security personnel near Akshardham Temple.