Peaceful protest of farmers took a turn on Republic Day

Tens of thousands of Indian farmers stormed the Mughal-era Red Fort complex in the national capital to demand the repeal of new farm laws.

A “tractor rally” called by the protesting farmers in New Delhi on Tuesday saw them clashing with police who fired tear gas and launched a baton-charge as the protesters broke barricades to march to the heart of the city amid Republic Day celebrations.

For two months now, the farmers had been camping on the outskirts of New Delhi, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to withdraw the contentious laws passed in September last year.

Defying elaborate security arrangements in place for the Republic Day military parade, the protesters entered the Red Fort, where the Sikh farmers also installed a religious flag.

As part of their tractor rally planned on Republic Day, farmers entered Delhi from Singhu and Ghazipur borders amid high security. But the protesters soon deviated from the designated route and the protest turned violent, with the police lobbing tear gas shells and resorting to lathi charge.

A section of the farmers gathered outside the Delhi Police headquarters at ITO, while many others reached the Red Fort.

This is one of the longest farmers-led protests India has ever seen, pitting the community against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) government.

Amit Shah, Union Home Minister say sources, was briefed on the clashes that erupted after thousands of farmers breached barricades at the borders, deviated from agreed routes and reached the heart of the city. The Home Minister reportedly ordered the police to take strict action against those who violated the parade conditions.

Internet has been suspended in parts of Delhi and its neighbourhood.

As the nation celebrated Republic Day in the morning, farmers protesting outside Delhi’s borders for nearly two months knocked down police barricades long before the time that had been agreed upon for their tractor rally in the capital.

Farmers’ union body Samyukta Kisan Morcha disassociated itself from those who indulged in violence during the tractor parade, and alleged that some “antisocial elements” infiltrated their otherwise peaceful movement.