Farmers clash with cops as tractor rally turns violent

Farm Laws: Farmers clash with police in Delhi as tractor rally turns violent

A farmer holds a sword during a protest against farm laws introduced by the government, at the historic Red Fort in Delhi, India, January 26, 2021. Credit: REUTERS

The two-month-long peaceful protest against the farms laws descended into mayhem on Tuesday after thousands of farmers on tractors broke barricades and rode into Delhi, clashing with police at several places.

A group of belligerent farmers even laid a temporary siege to the Red Fort and hoisted a religious flag at the iconic attraction, where the Prime Minister unfurls the national tricolour on Independence Day, as the national capital witnessed unprecedented scenes.

Read: Red Fort 'siege' by protesting farmers creates unease among Opposition parties

While the official Republic Day parade rolled down the Rajpath, police personnel found themselves vastly outnumbered at the four border points of the national capital, where farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh had been gathering over the weekend for the Kisan Ganatantra Parade.

At least one farmer was killed and several more were injured in clashes with police at the ITO, a busy junction barely two kilometres from India Gate. Farmer groups claimed that the farmer died of gunshot wounds, which was denied by the Delhi Police.

Police released CCTV footage to claim that the farmer died after the tractor he was riding overturned after ramming into a barricade at the ITO in Central Delhi. Police claimed 83 of its personnel were injured in the clashes during which protesters allegedly even tried to mow down a senior official under a tractor.

Shortly after 8 am, farmers broke the barricades at the Singhu and Tikri borders in north and west Delhi respectively and began their tractor rally and foot march much before the pre-decided time of 12 noon.

Breaking barricades, thousands of tractors veered away from the pre-decided routes agreed in discussions with authorities and rode down the arterial roads at will.

“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 hoards of farmers.

Read | Farmers broke pre-decided conditions for tractor parade, many personnel injured: Delhi Police

Police fired teargas at Ghazipur in east Delhi, Nangloi west Delhi and Mukarba Chowk in north Delhi as farmers rammed tractors into buses used to block their convoys and threw stones at the police.

A large group of farmers entered the Red Fort and raised the Nishan Sahib, the flag of the Sikh faith, and another flag from the empty flagpole on the ramparts of the monument. Protestors also tried to climb other domes of the Fort to put up flags of the farmers’ unions.

Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protestors at the Red Fort.

“We came here to deliver a message to the Modi government,” Tejinder Singh, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, said.

As dusk engulfed the capital, sporadic incidents of violence continued and restless crowds roamed the streets in many places. Some farmers began the journey to their respective sit-in sites at Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping on the borders of the capital since November 26, protesting against the farm laws contending that the reforms would hand over the farm sector to a handful of businessmen.