New Delhi: Republic Day celebration in the National Capital was marred by violence as thousands of farmers protesting against agriculture reforms breached the security cordon at the borders and clashed with police in an failed attempt to reach historic Rajpath for their tractor parade.
At least one person died while scores were injured.
However, hundreds of protestors managed to enter the Red Fort breaching police security and planted a religious and farm union flag on the pole where Tri-Colour is hoisted on Independence Day. The flag was later removed and the area cleared by the police.
The violence began at Singhu and Tikri border, when the protestors, who were massed in thousands, broke the police barricades before the scheduled time, to take out the tractor parade.
Police had to resort to lathi charge and fire tear gas shells to stop the rally, but failed as they were outnumbered. The cordon was broken at Ghazipur border as well.
A fierce battle took place at three places--Mukarba Chowk, Nangloi and ITO. The police and protestors attacked each other with sticks and stones. A 25-year-old protestor was killed in the ITO protest while scores of both-- policemen and civilians-- were injured. The police buses parked to stop the protestors were also vandalised.
At Nangloi, female constables formed a human chain to stop the protestors from moving ahead.
The protestors were seen pushing through all the borders of the National Capital and Akshardham and Pragati Maidan road dotted with tractors.
The Delhi-Noida Chilla border was closed for traffic and metro services suspended at various routes in central Delhi and other places. The Connaught Place was out of bounds for business.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah called a high-level meeting at his residence to take stock of the situation and ordered deployment of additional central security forces in various sensitive areas of Delhi, including Nangloi.
The Union Home Ministry suspended internet services in parts of the National Capital and surrounding areas to maintain public safety.
As per the order, the services have been suspended at Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk and Nangloi and their adjoining areas in the NCT from 1200 hrs to 2359 hrs.
A high alert was later issued in Haryana and Punjab by the authorities.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body representing farmers, disassociated themselves from those who indulged in acts of violence.
“We condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts, the body said in a press statement.
The farmer’s body appealed the protestors not to indulge in any violent action or anything that taints national symbols and dignity.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh urged the protesting farmers to vacate the National Capital and return to the borders. “The violence by some elements is unacceptable. It’ll negate goodwill generated by peacefully protesting farmers. Kisan leaders have disassociated themselves & suspended #TractorRally,” CM said.
Yogendra Yadav, national president of pro-farmer party Swaraj India, through a video appealed to the protestors to return and warned that violence can harm their nearly two-month old protest against the farm laws.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too condemned the violence but asked the central government to repeal the farm laws.
“Underlining violence is not the solution to any problem,” Mr Gandhi wrote on his official twitter handle.
Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP from Kerala, expressed his sadness over the flags being hoisted from Red Fort.
“Most unfortunate. I have supported the farmers’ protests from the start but I cannot condone lawlessness. And on #RepublicDay no flag but the sacred tiranga should fly aloft the Red Fort,” Mr Tharoor tweeted.
The Aam Aadmi Party said that it is regrettable that the Central government allowed the situation to deteriorate to such an extent.
“We strongly condemn the violence seen in today’s protest. It is regrettable that the Central govt allowed the situation to deteriorate to such an extent. The movement has been peaceful for the last two months,” AAP said in a statement.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said those who were seen as “annadata” (food providers) for so many days have turned out to be extremists.
“Those we had been calling annadata (food providers) for so many days have turned out to be extremists. Don’t defame annadata, call an extremist an extremist only,” Mr Patra tweeted.
Left leaders condemned the violence, but squarely blamed the government for letting the situation deteriorate.
“The situation has been brought to this pass by the Modi government. Farmers have been protesting peacefully in the cold for more than 60 days, not allowed to come into Delhi and more than 100 kisans are dead,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in a tweet.
As per the plan approved by the police, the farmers were allowed to take a parade at three circular routes from Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri border only after the Republic Day parade at Rajpath.
The parade planned by farmers was to show their unity against the three recently passed farm laws which allows private players to enter the agriculture sector.
The farm unions called off the rally later in the evening. (UNI)