Chaos in Delhi as farmers' tractor parade turns violent, protesters storm Red Fort
A tractor march meant to highlight farmers' demands on January 26, turned into unexpected mayhem during the Republic Day celebrations. There were massive protests in prominent areas of Delhi including the Red Fort.
Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police in multiple places, leading to chaos in well known landmarks of Delhi and suburbs, amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the day, leaving the farmers' two-month peaceful movement in tatters.
In a Republic Day like no other, farmers atop tractors, on motorcycles and some on horses, broke barricades to enter the city at least two hours before they were supposed to start the tractor march at noon sanctioned by authorities. Steel and concrete barriers were broken and trailer trucks overturned as pitched battles broke out in several parts of the city.
Eclipsing the traditional show of military might at Rajpath, the farmers' tractor parade that was supposed to be peaceful led to virtual anarchy on the streets and unprecedented scenes the most perhaps being the sight of protesters clambering up the flagpole at the Red Fort, the centrepiece of India's Independence Day celebrations, to hoist the 'Nishaan Sahib', the Sikh religious flag.
Farmer leaders, who have been spearheading the protest at the national capital's border points to demand a repeal of the farm laws, distanced themselves from the protests that had taken such an unseemly turn and threatened to shift public sympathy from their movement.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 farmer unions, alleged that some "antisocial elements" infiltrated their otherwise peaceful movement.
The union also condemned and regretted the "undesirable" and "unacceptable" events as the parade turned violent after several groups of farmers deviated from the pre-decided route for the march.
"We have always held that peace is our biggest strength, and that any violation would hurt the movement
"We dissociate ourselves from all such elements that have violated our discipline. We appeal strongly to everyone to stick to the route and norms of the parade, and not indulge in any violent action or anything that taints national symbols and dignity. We appeal to everyone to desist from any such acts, it added.
"We are trying to get a full picture of all the events with regard to the several parades that were planned today and will share a full statement soon. Our information is that apart from some regrettable violations, the parades are underway peacefully as per plan," it said in a statement.
As the sun set, sporadic incidents of violence continued and restless crowds roamed the streets in many places. Some groups of farmers began the journey to their respective sit-in sites at Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, but thousands stayed on.
ITO resembled a war zone with a car being vandalised by angry protesters and shells, bricks and stones littering the wide streets, testimony to the fact that the farmer movement that had been peaceful for two months was no longer so.
Union Minister of Tourism and Culture Prahlad Patel condemned the actions of a section of farmers who entered the Red Fort as part of their tractor rally and said it violated the symbol of dignity of India's democracy.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points, including Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, since November 28, demanding a complete repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops. (PTI)
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