Singhu/Ghazipur: Groups of farmers camping at Singhu and Tikri border points of the national capital broke through police barricades Tuesday morning as they attempted to enter the city to carry out a tractor rally in protest against the Centre’s three contentious farm laws. Police resorted to teargas shelling to disperse the crowd and prevent it from advancing.
Farmers at the Singhu border managed to breach the barricade around 8:30am, well before noon, the time allotted for the tractor rally. The Delhi Police, in its no-objection certificate, had permitted the protest to take place between 12 and 6 pm, and also laid out a route map to follow.
Chants of ‘Kisan kanoon wapas lo’ (take back the farm laws) rent the air on the Karnal road leading to the national capital.
“We have fired tear gas shells because that was the only option left to control the crowd. This is not what was agreed upon,” a police officer at Singhu said.
Major Singh Kaisel, who is part of the protest, told ThePrint: “We will not follow this government’s route. We want to enter Delhi from the outer ring road. We won’t bow down.”
Thousands of farmers with tractors have blockaded roads at the Mukarba chowk, and have refused to follow the route map, which goes from Badli underway towards Rohini. Instead, the farmers are looking to enter the city through the outer ring road.
Police said they were trying to talk to leaders of Kisan Samyukt Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 unions that has been leading the protests, to ensure that the agreed route map is followed. The police said that if the farmers continue to march without permission, they will be detained.
“We are trying to talk to the senior farmer leaders of Kisan Samyukt Morcha … they have agreed to our route map. Today, norms have been violated. We gave them the best deal, and are still trying to maintain the law and order. Despite the talks, the numbers have risen. If they break further barricades and disrupt law and order, we have to detain them,” the officer said.
A few farmers have now threatened to “surround central Delhi”.
“We will surround central Delhi today. This can’t go on. First, they bring inhuman laws, now they give inhuman treatment. This is jung (war),” said Balwinder, a farmer who hails from Haryana.
Another protesting farmer, Harinder Singh, said, “This is inquilab (revolution). We aren’t scared of dying. The police want to sabotage our cause.”
The protesting unions have also announced a foot march to Parliament on 1 February, when the annual Budget is presented, to press for their demands including a repeal of the three new agriculture laws.
Heavy security has been deployed in view of the ‘Kisan Gantantra Parade’ that will move into Delhi from the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points.
Farmers ignore protocol laid out by Delhi Police
Delhi Police had issued norms, such as no more than five people to a tractor, no sitting on the bonnet and no raising provocative slogans. Farmers were seen violating these protocols as they attempted to carry out their protest.
“Please take the right from Mukarba chowk. Maintain law & order,” the police could be heard announcing over the din of the crowds.
At the Singh site, tractors advanced while flowers were showered. At various places, the Khalsa aid provided water and food.
The farmers said they have given Delhi Police an hour to remove the barricades. “If they don’t agree, we aren’t scared. We will break whatever they have put,” said Yoginger Singh, one of the farmers present at Singhu border. Singh is among those camping at the border for two months now.
Some groups have began marching towards Lal Quila in central Delhi, which deviates from the approved route.
Ghazipur protest camps spread out
At the Ghazipur border as well, farmers broke through barriers and moved away from the assigned route as they headed towards Akshardham. According to police, they were expected to move towards Anand Vihar.
Tractors have been rammed into buses that were blocking their way. Over here though, police hasn’t used excessive force.
“More and more people are still coming here … approximately 3 lakh people must be gathered here,” Vinod Pawar, representative of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) told ThePrint.
“The line of tractors stretches till Loni, I tell you. It’s like tractors have been piled upon each other,” Ranveer Singh, another BKU member, said.
Before kickstarting the tractor rally, farmers unfurled the national flag and sang the national anthem. Tractors were also decorated with national flags, tricoloured balloons and marigold flowers.
Union leaders cautioned farmers against breaking their agreement with the police and urged them to maintain peace throughout the rally.
“BKU ordered at least 1 lakh flags to be made. Additionally, many media houses and Delhi Police have given us flags,” said Brajesh Yadav, another protester.
The protest site has swollen to almost twice its size since farmers began gathering here two months ago.
What initially covered about 2-3 kilometres of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway has now spread to at least 5-6 kilometres with farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh joining in.