Before the 10th round of negotiations between the government and farmer leaders over the contentious farm laws, the representatives of farmers’ unions met police commissioners of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh at Vigyan Bhawan to decide the route of the tractor parade on Republic Day.
Four farmer leaders — Krantikari Kisan Union head Darshan Pal, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, BKU-Sidhupur leader Jagjeet Singh Dalewal and BKU Haryana leader Gurnam Singh Chadauni — attended the meeting with police and security agencies. The meeting, however, was inconclusive.
Jagjeet Singh Dalewal told The Federal that the police teams from the three states neither said ‘yes’ or ‘no’. “The police have not given a roadmap yet. They did not approve or disapprove the roadmap provided by us either. Even if they disapprove our roadmap, we will go ahead with our tractor parade on the outer ring road,” Dalewal said.
The protesting farmers suggest the tractor parade would cover a 50-km distance on Outer Ring Road, touching Peeragarhi, Janakpuri, Dhaula Kuan, Munerka, IIT, Khelgaon, Chirag Delhi, Burari, Rohini and Majnu Ka Tilla.
After the meeting, Gurnam Singh Chadauni said they will not obstruct the official Republic Day parade. “We have told police that we want to parade on the outer ring road because the number of tractors would be too high for Delhi’s internal roads to accommodate. Our parade will not cause any law and order problems and it will be a peaceful procession,” said Chadauni.
The police, however, fear law and order issues may arise if the tractor march happens on the outer ring road. Citing traffic constraints and law and order issues, the Delhi Police, which had met the farmers on Tuesday as well, asked the unions to shift the route from Outer Ring Road to an alternative road in the capital. They also sought details on how many protesters and tractors would be part of the January 26 march.
BKU (Dakaunda) leader Jagmohan Singh Patiala said they would not change the route. “We assured the police team of complete cooperation during the tractor parade,” Patiala had said on Tuesday (January 19) after the meeting with the police team.
The Supreme Court (SC) earlier refused to halt the tractor rally saying it was up to the Delhi police to decide who can enter the national capital and who cannot. The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde told the Delhi police a few days back: “We have told you that we will not issue any direction. It is for the police to decide. We will allow you to withdraw. You are the authority and you have the power to take action. You have the powers to pass orders, you do it. It is not for the court to pass orders.”
During the hearing, attorney general Venugopal told the apex court that almost 5,000 tractors are expected to reach Delhi on January 26. The CJI told the attorney general that these matters are purely in the executive domain.
The SC bench also asked advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was appearing for some farmers unions in the case, to see that the unions he is representing assure the citizens of Delhi of complete co-operation and peaceful protest. “As a court we are only expressing our anxiety,” said the apex court. Bhushan assured the court that farmers only want to celebrate Republic Day on Outer Ring Road in a peaceful manner.