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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Violent ‘farmers’ barge into Red Fort, throw away tricolor and hoist Sikh pennant

Protesting farmers on Tuesday swarmed the Red Fort in New Delhi during a ‘tractor rally’ here on the Republic Day even as police tried to prevent them from driving towards central Delhi. The farmers barged into the 17th century monument, climbed up its ramparts and waved farmer union flags and banners and even hoisted a Sikh pennant.

A video shows one of the protestors who had climbed up the flag pole throw away the tricolor someone tries to hand to him, and choose a Sikh pennant instead for hoisting –

A verified Pakistani twitter handle was seen celebrating what it claimed was “Indian Flag removed, Flag of Khalistan is waving on Red Fort. Historic Moments.” But sadly, just blaming Pakistani elements for this violence would be facile. Many Sikh bodies like SGPC have thrown their weight behind these farmer protests and also must be held accountable for the violence that unravelled yesterday.

Police and other security personnel deployed at the Red Fort could be seen lathi-charging the protesters even as the former were clearly outnumbered by the farmers. After sometime, security personnel succeeded in removing the farmers from the fort ramparts, after which they had skirmishes with the police and also chased them that led to injuries to several farmers and policemen. Soon, the farmers left the spot and moved towards central Delhi.

All this occurred after thousands of farmers riding tractors and motorcycles thronged the busy ITO intersection and played cat-and-mouse games with the police to proceed towards India Gate. In the meantime, a young farmer died near the ITO intersection in the central Delhi as he tried to ram through police barricades at high speed and his tractor turned turtle.

The death of this farmer was falsely claimed to be a result of police firing by likes of tainted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai (he later deleted that tweet). Clearly, a section of Lutyens’ Delhi was hoping for more bloodshed in the violence unleashed by the protestors.

Fellow farmers sat on protest on the spot along with the body of the deceased, who hailed from western Uttar Pradesh.

Chaos prevailed near the ITO intersection in central Delhi as hundreds of farmers rallied there to outnumber the security personnel at the spot. Other video clips showed farmers chasing away policemen on foot as well with tractors, and trying to remove a DTC bus parked across the ITO road stretch by pushing it out of way with a tractor.

The police fired tear-gas shells and lathi-charged the protesters on different occasions as farmers remained adamant to move towards the Red Fort. Later, Rapid Action Force and the Border Security Force was also deployed at the ITO intersection. The farmers, after confrontation with police that lasted for around 40 minutes, moved towards Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, which houses the offices of Aam Aadmi Party, Delhi Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.

Later, farmers opened another front in Nangloi area as they removed a trailer truck parked across the road to stop them. Hundreds of farmers overturned the trailer to make way for the tractors to enter the national capital and even damaged temporary police tents set up at Nangloi.

At one place, a video showed protestors on tractors creating mayhem, trying to run over policemen who tried desperately to stop them with nothing more than lathis –

Near Akshardham mandir, a Nihang (a Sikh warrior sect) protester and several others even attacked police personnel with swords. Delhi Police has confirmed major damage to public property and injuries to many policemen.

On Tuesday morning, a section of farmers stationed at Singhu and Tikri borders started their tractor parade much ahead of the scheduled time to enter the national capital in violation of an agreement with authorities. Skirmishes with police were reported from multiple fronts as farmers gathered at Karnal Bypass, Mukarba Chowk, Transport Nagar, Akshardham, Ghazipur and Tikri borders. Some farmers armed with swords were seen brandishing the weapons.

Police fired tear-gas shells on farmers after they entered Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar from the Delhi-Haryana border at Singhu. Visuals of protesters riding horses were witnessed at the Karnal Bypass while others broke through barricades at Singhu and Mukarba Chowk. Some farmers damaged trucks and DTC buses parked on roads to stop them to enter towards central Delhi.

On Sunday, Delhi Police had allowed the tractor rally after the official Republic Day parade.

During their talks with the police, the protesters were told that they could not disrupt the celebrations on the Rajpath even as farmers insisted their parade would be “peaceful”. Events of yesterday also reflects poorly on the Supreme Court and the Lutyens’ lawyers like Prashant Bhushan that the CJI chose to take at face value when they gave assurances that the tractor rally would be peaceful.

Many netizens demanded immediate arrest of protest leaders like Rakesh Tikait, Yogendra Yadav and other union leaders, while there were also calls for action against media outlets like The Wire, Scroll etc who have been continuously fanning the flames over these protests.

Ultimately, this challenge to the nation’s sovereignty by disrupting the Republic Day celebrations, disrespecting the tricolor and hoisting a religious flag at the Red Fort, is something that the centre has to tackle. Having failed to pre-empt yesterday’s events despite ample intelligence inputs, the centre now needs to crack down on all the ring-leaders from media, unions, activists to establish its authority.

(With IANS inputs)

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