Break police barricades, defy lathis and tear gas
The farmers' agitation took an unexpected turn on RepublicDay with a large section of farmers defying barricades, tear gas and police lathis to reach the Red Fort. The country was witness to farmers swarming the historic monument, climbing the ramparts with the tricolour and the yellow and green flags that have come to symbolise the nationwide agitation for the repeal of the three farm laws.
Amid clashes with the police, the farmers targeted the iconic Red Fort and occupied the historic site for a brief while. Thousands of farmers gathered at the Red Fort along with their tractors.
The tricolour was hosted atop a pole at the Red Fort, as were the flags of this movement. The sacred flag attributed to Sikhism , the Nishan Sahib was also put up by the agitating farmers.
There are also reports of the agitators performing the martial art form of Gatka outside the Red Fort.
As veteran political commentator from Punjab Jagtar Singh told this reporter, “The authorities failed to gauge that the target was Lal Qila that has always been seen as the symbol of power.” He later tweeted that the farmers should return from Lal Qila having made their statement.
There were reports of farmers starting to vacate the venue saying they had achieved their goal.
The farmers clashed with the police right from the early hours of the morning at different places. Enthusiastic youngsters started moving towards the national capital far ahead of the time allocated to them for a peaceful tractor parade. They broke down barricades, and there are videos of police chasing them back, along with videos of Nihangs chasing the cops.
Meanwhile, away from the national capital, there were reports of tractor parades being held across Punjab, Haryana, parts of western Uttar Pradesh and many other places across the country.People welcomed the protesting farmers by showering flower petals and playing music. The common people joined the farmers on the streets, dancing to the music. The tricolour along with the farmer union flags were in full display through the day.
The intervening night between Monday and Tuesday saw a massive movement of tractors and other vehicles from across Punjab, Haryana and other places towards Delhi. Hundreds of tractors from western Uttar Pradesh were reportedly stopped at the borders. The entire route was also marked by langar sewas where the travelers were being offered food and other essentials.
The farmers were welcomed in the localities of Delhi also. Members of various civil society organizations and student bodies had turned up at various places to show their support to the movement of the farmers.
The farmers have already moved into the next phase of the agitation. Many said that they would not return to the borders but will camp now in the Ramlila grounds, near the Red Fort and within Delhi. The farmers will march to Parliament on February 1, the day the Union Government is scheduled to present the annual budget. The farmers organisations will be keeping a close watch on the performance not just of the ruling party, but more of the Opposition MPs in Parliament during the forthcoming budget session.
Farmers leaders said that while the Red Fort was not in the planned itinerary, it was a monument of the people. The tight route set by the Delhi police created some fissures amongst the agitating farmers, with the younger lot not content with the directions to stay on the Outer Ring road that they claimed was ‘well outside the heart of Delhi.’ Efforts by the senior leaders to remind them that Rajghat was also on the outer route clearly failed. After entering the Red Fort, the crowds dispersed.
The agitating farmers have been expressing their anger at the manner their concerns have been treated by the central government. Three months of protests in Punjab and another two months of sit ins at the borders of the national capital has tested their patience to the extreme. On top of this has been the right wing campaign against the protesting people branding them as ‘terrorists’. ‘Khalistanis’, those supported by ‘Pakistan and China’, ‘anti nationals’ and ‘naxalites’.
The pliant ‘Godi media’ has been playing an active role in this and has been facing hostility of the agitating people. The general perception is that the right wing propaganda against the people is only going to increase in the days to come.
The leadership of the farmers’ had come out with an appeal on ‘dos and ‘don’ts’ about the proposed tractor parade on Tuesday which went for a toss as farmers from all sides targeted reaching the Red Fort. The farmers’ organizations had also set up a helpline for addressing medical and other emergencies.
The protestors also pointed out on social media that there were attempts to defame them and baseless charges were leveled against them for having vandalized public property.
While the political reactions were yet to pour in after the farmers occupied the Red Fort, in one of the first reactions senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that violence is not a solution to any problem as it is the country that bears the loss. “The anti farm laws should be withdrawn in the interest of the country,” he said.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh came out with a statement saying that his heart is with the farmers on this Republic Day. He claimed that neither he nor his government were ever asked or consulted about the black farm laws. He asked the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept the demands of the farmers.
Amarinder Singh lamented that he never thought he would see a day when Punjab’s farmers, who had made the nation self-sufficient in food by ushering in the green revolution and ensured that India never needed to beg for food under America’s PL 480, would be forgotten in this manner. At one time, Punjab farmers were contributing 50% to the food basket, and even now contribute 40% of the total food grains, he said. He added, “We can never forget what they have done for our country.”