New Delhi: The route announced by the Delhi Police for the farmers’ proposed Republic Day tractor rally has split the protesting organisations.
While many leaders of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the farmers’ agitation against the farm laws, have agreed to the route, several others have taken objection to the fact that the Delhi Police is restricting them to the outskirts and not allowing them on their desired route via the Outer Ring Road.
The farmers opposing the farm laws have been holed up at different border points across Delhi — Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur — as they continue to hold talks with the Modi government over their grievances with the three new legislations. They have decided to organise a tractor rally through Delhi on Republic Day as another expression of their protest.
Delhi Police Sunday announced three routes for the rally from the three border points. “The tractor rally will enter Delhi from Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur borders and return to its originating points. It will pass through Kanjhawala, Bawana, Auchandi border, KMP Expressway and then return to Singhu, from Singhu border,” Delhi Police Special Commissioner of Police (CP), Intelligence, Dependra Pathak said at a press conference.
“From Tikri border, it will go to Nangloi and pass through Najafgarh and Western Peripheral Expressway. From Ghazipur border, the rally will go to 56-foot road and return to its originating point passing through Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal Expressway,” he added.
This, the police said, was decided after multiple rounds of meetings with the farmers. Delhi Police has officially not stated a time, but sources said the tractor march will only start after the Republic Day parade ends — around 11.30 am.
Swarn Singh Pandher, secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee — one of the organisations protesting at the Singhu border and member of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha — said Monday morning they don’t “accept the route proposed by Delhi Police and accepted by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha”.
“We demand to hold our 26 January tractor rally at Outer Ring Road in Delhi, no matter what other farmer unions wish to do,” he added.
“Police have assured us of a meeting today to hear our demands and we will request them to grant us permission for the Outer Ring Road. If police fear we might sit across Delhi after entering the Outer Ring Road, they may barricade other routes to avoid a sit-in,” he said early Monday. “However, our demands of carrying out the rally remain the same.”
While Pandher said their meeting with the police was planned for 10 am Monday, sources in the Delhi Police claimed no such meeting was held.
Another farmer union leader said “eight out of 40 farm leaders who negotiated with the agriculture minister in the last round of talks have expressed their disagreement in going ahead with the route given by Delhi Police and accepted by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha”.
“These dissenters are mobilising under the leadership of Satnam Singh Pannu, president of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and are seeking help from other farmer unions sitting at the Tikri and Kundli border to mobilise masses for reaching and carrying out rallies at Outer Ring Road,” the leader added.
Speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, members of two other farmer organisations — the Krantikari Kisan Union led by Dr Darshan Pal and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)-Rajewal led by Balbeer Singh Rajewal — also objected to the route. Both are members of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha.
However, a farm leader from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), also a part of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, said the protest rally should go ahead on the route agreed with Delhi Police.
“Chaduni (Gurnam Singh Chaduni, a farmer leader from Haryana) was the eldest of the committee of eight people who went to talk to Delhi Police about the route, and finalised the route of the rally on the outskirts of Delhi,” the leader said, adding that the route had been largely accepted till last night.
“Even Tikait (farmer leader Rakesh Tikait) sent Yudhvir (Yudhvir Singh, spokesperson of Tikait’s BKU) on his behalf, the rest were young guns of farmers unions,” he said.
The leader added: “Now, instead of calling them traitors and changing their minds, said the senior leadership should keep silent and organise the rally on the route agreed with Delhi Police. Last-minute change in goal posts will lead to further ruckus and will cost the protest its hard-earned respect and discipline.”
ThePrint reached BKU (Dakaunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh, Pal of the Krantikari Kisan Union and Rajewal of the BKU (Rajewal) by text and call for an official comment but hadn’t received a response by the time of publishing this report.
Sources in Delhi Police said the routes have been decided with “consensus” and are the “best deal” they can offer.
“We have the consensus of the senior farmers union leaders. The tractor movement will only be on the route that has been decided. A lot of the interference is exterior, and we don’t think that the main farmers union leaders who have been at the forefront have an issue,” a senior police officer told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.
“They are looking after things. We didn’t hold any meeting with them today (Monday),” the officer said.
The farmers objecting to the route “need to understand that we have given them the best possible option”, the officer added.
“Farmers have to understand that the entire law-and-order situation cannot be disrupted in the national capital on Republic Day,” the officer said.
So far, 11 rounds of talks have take place between the government and the protesting farmers to resolve the ongoing standoff, but consensus has remained elusive.
While the government, led by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, has offered to suspend the laws for 12-18 months, the farmers have sought a complete repeal of the legislations.