New Delhi: Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Srivastava has said the night before Republic Day, his force had an inkling that farmers may “exercise aggression” at their tractor rally the next day. However, the police did not withdraw the permission in “good faith”, since they had already “signed an agreement with the farmer groups”, with an “assurance from farmer leaders that nothing will go wrong”, the officer told ThePrint.
“On the night of 25th January, the aggressive and militant groups of these farmers were given the centre stage, from where they delivered provocative speeches,” Srivastava said.
“At that time, we understood their intentions. But we did not cancel the permission as we had signed the agreement and were assured by farmer leaders that the rally will pass off smoothly. We dealt with it in a very calm and professional manner,” he said.
Srivastava also addressed a press conference Wednesday, where he said the police also had enough intelligence and worked to identify over 300 handles that were created in Pakistan to instigate the farmers and make the rally violent, but still let the tractor rally happen as “we were prepared”.
“We had all the intelligence. Also, we knew their intention, but since we had signed an agreement with the farmers, we wanted to stick it. We knew that we will be able to handle any untoward situation well as we were prepared,” the commissioner said.
“This is the reason that despite so much violence, the police was able to control the situation well without any casualties or serious injuries to anyone,” he explained.
In Tuesday’s violence, over 394 policemen were injured; 428 barricades broken; and 30 police cars and six containers damaged. The police till now have registered 25 FIRs in connection with the violence, and have arrested 19 people. Over 50 people have been detained and more arrests are likely.
‘No one will be spared’
Commissioner Srivastava called the violence a “breach of trust”, and said all farmer leaders were involved in this episode, insisting that no one will be spared.
“Any protest done in an undemocratic, illegal manner is a serious issue and will be dealt with seriously. No culprit, whether it is the farmer leaders or anyone else, will be spared,” he said.
He added that all farmer leaders and people associated with the groups will be called for questioning.
“We wanted this protest to be peaceful, and that is why we conducted five rounds of talks with the groups. We wanted to facilitate them, but violence happened, and all the farmer leaders are involved,” he said.
Srivastava also said the police are using face recognition technology and footage from CCTV cameras to identify the “miscreants”.
“The ones who reached Lal Quila (Red Fort) and climbed the ramparts and hoisted flags are being identified. The police have seized those flags, which are now case property. We are using technology to identify all miscreants,” he said.
Srivastava reiterated that “all farmer leaders” flouted the agreement by bringing in more than 5,000 tractors and people armed with weapons like sticks, rods and swords.
“Three routes were given to them, which they agreed upon. It was also decided that the rally will begin post 12 noon (and last) until 5 pm, and all the leaders will be with the participants. Each jatha (batch) was supposed to have a leader with them,” he said.
“It was also decided that no weapons will be allowed and the protest will be peaceful. An undertaking was also signed, which all the groups eventually flouted,” the commissioner added.
According to Srivastava, despite these decided terms and conditions, at 6:30 am on Republic Day, farmers at the Singhu border started breaking barricades, demanding that they be allowed to start the rally.
“The time was fixed at 12 noon but they started creating a ruckus at 6:30 am itself. Then their leader Satnam Pannu instigated them and then all broke barricades and went and sat at Mukarba Chowk. Darshan Pal Singh (of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee) too refused to take the decided route,” Srivastava said, adding that Pannu then gave a provocative speech and the farmers sat at Mukarba Chowk, refusing to take the route that was decided.
Similarly, at Tikri border, Srivastava said farmers started breaking barricades at 8:30 am. The farmers then marched towards Nangloi and sat there, refusing to take the decided route, he claimed.
“Their leader Boota Singh refused to go ahead, and after that, everyone started breaking barricades. They damaged a container and marched towards Peeragarhi, from where they went to Lal Quila,” he said.
At Ghazipur border too, Srivastava said farmer leader Rakesh Tikait indulged in violence and led people to Akshardham and then Lal Quila.
“The police exercised restraint despite having all the options. We did not want any loss of life,” Srivastava said.