Thousands of farmers entered the heart of the national capital and clashed with police as they took out a tractor rally on Republic Day against the government’s controversial new agricultural laws.
One farmer died near ITO after his tractor overturned, according to police. Some protesters challenged the claim, saying he was killed in police firing.
The protesters — who were allowed to hold the rally between noon and 5pm — began the march before time and deviated from the agreed routes, the police said.
Amid the chaos, protesters were tear-gassed and baton-charged.
Farmers’ body Samyukta Kisan Morcha said: “We thank farmers for the unprecedented participation in today’s Farmers Republic Day Parade. We also condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts.”
Anti-social elements “had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement”, the statement said.
As the country celebrated its 72nd Republic Day, farmers had been given the permission to take out their tractor rally in Delhi after the parade at Rajpath.
Crowds, however, swelled at the borders at around 8am, even before the parade started.
Visuals showed farmers breaching barriers at the Singhu border near Haryana, the epicentre of the protests. A video from Akshardham showed policemen firing tear gas shells from an overbridge as protesters run for cover.
Red Fort stormed
The police removed farmers from Red Fort premises, where they had barged in and hoisted flags. Chaos reigned for nearly 90 minutes as some protesters, including Nihangs (traditional Sikh warriors), forced their way into the Red Fort and hoisted a flag from the staff from which the prime minister unfurls the tricolour on Independence Day. The police later resorted to lathi-charge to vacate the Red Fort premises. Continuous announcements were being made asking the protesters to leave the complex peacefully.
A symbol of Sikh religion
The saffron flag hoisted by the protesters was the Nishan Sahib, a symbol of Sikh religion seen at all Gurdwara complexes. The Nishan Sahib is a triangular flag that is sacred to Sikhs. The emblem on the flag comprises of Khanda, a two-edged sword, Chakra, a disc, and two Kirpans that cross each other at the handles. The other flag appeared to be of a farmer union.
The government ordered shutdown of internet services in parts of Delhi NCR amid the protests. An order sent to telecom service providers directed temporary suspension of internet services in areas of Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk and Nangloi and adjoining areas from noon to 11.59pm, according to the Department of Telecom. “Government has invoked Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 in the interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency to suspend internet services in areas closer to farmers protest sites,” a source told PTI.