Tens of thousands of farmers drove convoys of tractors into New Delhi, clashed with the police and stormed the historic Red Fort during a protest against agricultural laws, even as the country celebrated its Republic Day on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, the city’s Republic Day parade, which showcases India’s military might and cultural heritage and is the main attraction of national celebrations to commemorate the country’s constitution, went ahead without disruption. The farmers, who have been camped outside the city for months, had been given a set time to start and a route to follow for their protest. However groups of protesters knocked down police barricades hours before the noon (0630 GMT) start and entered the city on foot and on tractors, some deviating from the set routes.
By the afternoon, thousands were seen marching on roads with flags while scores of tractors that deviated some 20 kilometres from their designated routes reached the Red Fort and key roads connecting to top government offices in the heart of the city.
They waved farm union and religious flags from the ramparts of the fort, a 16th century monument from where prime ministers annually hoist the national flag to mark the country’s independence. The police managed to remove them from the premises of the fort by early evening.
Farmers also clashed with police near the Delhi police headquarters, where police forces appeared to be outnumbered. Dramatic visuals showed groups trying to topple a public bus parked to block farmers from progressing further. Farmers on two tractors chased down police officers in the area.
Several police and protesters were injured in the violence, which took place at multiple city locations.
Police said one protester died after his tractor overturned, but farmers claimed he was shot. Eighteen police officers were hospitalized with injuries, officials said. Police resorted to baton-charging and firing tear gas shells to disperse angry crowds, members of which, in some locations, vandalized vehicles and pelted stones at the forces.
Farmer leaders who claimed more than 10,000 tractors had joined the rally, blamed “anti-social and political elements” for the violence.
26TH JANUARY, 2021