The violence in the national capital on the Republic Day now casts a shadow over the farmers’ groups protesting against the new farm laws. What is the way forward? Can this issue be resolved without further violence?
On 26th January, the day India celebrates its Republic Day, the mood in the national capital suddenly changed, with photos and videos of violence going viral across the world. It is still not clear how and when violent clashes between the police and a group of farmers started, and who was the main culprit.
But now the situation has turned ugly – and tense, with the threat of violence.
On Friday, the threat became a reality as a clash that broke out at Singhu border between farmers and locals, who were demanding that the area be vacated by protestors. This came after incidents of stone-pelting in the area following which the police had to resort to lathi-charge and fire tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. Some people were seen raising slogans against farmers and asked them to vacate the protest site.
The locals were protesting against the farmers demanding the site be vacated. They also raised slogans like –” Khalistan Murdabad”, “Tirange ka apmaan nahi sahega Hindustan” (India will not tolerate the insult of the flag). They were also holding placards with the same slogans.
This comes three days after the violence that broke out during the farmers’ tractor rally on the occasion of Republic Day, when some protestors broke barricades to enter Delhi.
In a big allegation, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) leader Satnam Singh Pannu on Friday claimed that the central government is sending Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliated people to instigate clashes at the protest site. “Modi government is using sick tactics to delegitimize our movement. They are sending the RSS people to instigate clashes here; they did it two times yesterday. We will make sacrifices but not go back until and unless the laws are repealed,” Pannu told ANI at the Singhu border. He further said more farmers are going to join them in the evening. The farmer leader also clarified that the protestors did not go to Red Fort, but marched on the decided route while taking out tractor rallies on Republic Day.
“Our people did not go to the Red Fort, we conducted our rally at the ring road only. The government had sent its own people there and is registering cases against us. They should take back these cases,” he added.
Pannu claimed that the farmers were not involved in vandalism in Delhi on January 26. Instead, a conspiracy was planned against them.
Farmers are staging anti-farm law protests at Delhi borders including Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur. Heavy security forces are deployed at the borders to keep a check on the law- and-order situation.
Farmers have been protesting at the different borders of the national capital since November 26 last year against the three newly enacted farm laws – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The situation in other states is tense too.
On Friday, thousands of farmers participated in a Kisan Mahapanchayat at Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar in support of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)- led protest against the Centre’s new farm laws at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. The ‘Mahapanchayat’ was called by Naresh Tikait, the president of BKU and brother of BKU leader Rakesh Tikait who broke down on Thursday at Ghazipur. The congregation was held at the GIC ground in Muzaffarnagar to decide on the future of the sit-in protest at Ghazipur. Naresh Taikait said that some farmers could have lost their way and reached Red Fort, but they can never do such act which can insult the nation.
“The violence was to defame the protest of the farmers,” he added.
Earlier, during his address to the fellow farmers, Taikait urged them to go to Delhi to protest against the farm laws. “Whoever wants to go to Delhi, from tomorrow you can proceed to go towards the Ghazipur border. We are continuing out agitation against the farm laws,” he said.
Meanwhile, slamming the Central Government over the Republic Day violence in Delhi, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Sougata Roy on Friday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of infiltrating antisocial elements to break down the farmers’ protest. Speaking to the media, Roy said, ”We condemn the action of the Central Government. Farmers were protesting peacefully for 62 days. It is the BJP that infiltrated a few elements to break down the protest. These new laws are against the interest of farmers and in favour of the capitalist of the country.” When asked about the boycott of the President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to Parliament, he said, “TMC and other 18 political parties boycotted the President’s address today. We respect the post of the President. But, the President supported the new farm laws. He should realize that two big farming communities Jat and Sikh are against the laws.”
As the battle of nerves continues, Delhi Police has urged public to come forward and get their statements recorded or hand over the footage if they happened to witness the violence on January 26 when farmers clashed with security personnel during their tractor rally. “All members of the public, including media personnel, who are witnesses to the incidents or have any information about the incident or have captured any activity on their mobile phones or camera, are hereby requested to come forward and give their statements/footage/picture in their possession”, Delhi Police said on Twitter. It said the identity of people providing information will be kept confidential.
On Tuesday, during the tractor rally, a group of farmers deviated from the assigned route, broke through barriers, clashed with security personnel in several parts of Delhi. They also vandalized property and even entered the Red Fort, where they hoisted their flags.
Over 25 FIRs have been registered in connection with the January 26 violence. It has lodged an FIR under sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sections of IPC dealing with sedition.
Delhi Police on Friday served notices to 12 farmer leaders, including Buta Singh Burjgill, Darshan Pal Singh, Rakesh Tikait, Shamsher Pandher and Satnam Pannu, to join an investigation into the violence.
Meanwhile, as the internet services were shut down in parts of Delhi-NCR close to farmers’ protest sites, Krantikari Kisan Union leader Darshal Pal has appealed to the government to restore the services, else the farmers will protest against it.
“We demand the restoration of internet services in areas where agitation is going on. Otherwise, we will hold a demonstration against it in the country,” Pal said while addressing the media on Friday. The Haryana government on Friday suspended all mobile internet, SMS, and dongle services in 17 districts including Sonipat, Palwal, and Jhajjar till 5 pm on January 30. The voice calls, however, are exempted as earlier from the suspension.
The farmers agitation has also triggered a war of words between the Congress and BJP.
Union Minister Smriti Irani on Friday slammed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi allegedly for giving a call for violence after he asked farmers not to end their protest and added that the Wayanad MP has “declared war” upon the people of India.
Addressing a press conference here, she said Gandhi had given a “call for violence” and accused him of creating “political strife”. “India witnessed Rahul Gandhi’s clarion call for violence across cities so much so that he included slums where the poor of our country lived. Never before in our democratic history, have we witnessed apolitical leader asking for the fire of violence to spread instead of seeking peace, instead of promoting peace, Rahul Gandhi today declared war upon the Indian people and said that if his political stand is not supported by the Prime Minister of our country then cities will burn,” the minister said.
In another warning, calling upon the government to be “on its toes” in view of attempts by Pakistan trying to infiltrate the borders and its sending weapons in increased numbers through drones since the beginning of agitation by farmers, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Friday said that “a disturbed Punjab suits Pakistan’s policies”.
In an interview, the Chief Minister said he had been cautioning the Centre about the designs of Pakistan and it is also sending money and heroin. He said Pakistan has sleeper cells which it can activate. “The Government should be on its toes. I have been warning them for a long time that Pakistan is trying to infiltrate the borders. Their weapons are coming in. They have sleeper cells here that they can awaken anytime they want. A disturbed Punjab suits Pakistan’s policies,” he said.
In such a tense and ugly situation, that is the last thing any government would want to have on its hands.