After Republic Day melee, shocked farmers’ unions say focus on February 1 march to Parliament

Operation clean up on as farm unions try to identify & isolate R-Day miscreants

Politics

January 27, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

After Republic Day melee, shocked farmers’ unions say focus on February 1 march to Parliament

Farmers clash with police near Singhu border (MIG photos)

Shocked by the sudden developments when an aggressive group of farmers broke off from the main tractor rally and created havoc at Red Fort, farm leaders at Delhi’s borders regroup to identify and isolate those whose violence has proven to be a huge setback to the movement that had been exemplarily peaceful so far.

The mood at Singhu border on Wednesday morning is sombre, to say the least. Weeks of preparations for the Republic Day Tractor Rally lay in shambles on Tuesday evening as violence at the iconic Red Fort and ITO in Delhi by a breakaway group of farmers overwhelmed the main tractor rally that the farmers’ unions say went on to be held peacefully and on the route determined in agreement with Delhi Police.

Gurdeep Singh Sidhu, from Jalandhar, the first farmer to have reached Delhi’s Singhu border on November 27, 2020, and has since become an icon of the protest site along with his green tractor, says that the decision to go off the agreed route was taken by some farmers who have not been part of the movement so far. “Right now, we are looking at all the videos and photos that we have obtained of the events yesterday. We are trying to identify the people responsible for this violence and see if we know them or not. Either way, these people were not part of the movement and cannot join our peaceful protest,” Singh tells Media India Group early in morning on Wednesday.

He goes on to admit that the developments of the Republic Day and the violence by the group of farmers is a major cause of concern for the movement and has dented the image of a protest that had been held up across the globe as an exemplary one to seek one’s rights democratically and peacefully. “Yes, yesterday’s violence has of course damaged the image of the protest and we will have to work hard to restore it. That is what we are going to be doing now,” Singh says.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the protest, the Sanykuta Kisan Morcha that brings together over 500 unions involved in the coordination of the protests against the farm laws have outrightly condemned the violence and disowned the people responsible for it. They, too, admit that the violence did not serve the interest of the movement, but has only damaged it.

“We condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts. Despite all our efforts, some organisations and individuals have violated the route and indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements have infiltrated our otherwise peaceful movement. We have always held that peace is our biggest strength, and that any violation would hurt the movement. We dissociate ourselves from all such elements that have violated our discipline,” the Morcha said in a statement.

“The farmers’ tractor rally today was conducted very peacefully and if some people have deviated from the agreement that we had with the government and indulged in violence, then we strongly condemn it and we disassociate ourselves from all such elements, but we are very sure that there was no violence from the farmers’ side. That we are crystal clear about it,” D Sunilam, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, a body that groups representatives of 250 farmer organisations from across the country, tells Media India Group.

He goes on to blame the Delhi Police for the role played by it in the day’s developments. “The Delhi Police had placed too many hurdled and barricades in the route of the farmers’ tractor rally. It took me over five hours to go a distance of 100 km, while it should have taken only two. The Delhi police, instead of creating a special route to facilitate the rally and guide it properly, only placed number of barricades in its way,” he says.

Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU, Ugrahan faction), one of the prominent names of the movement, said the message of the march would have been stronger if it had been kept free of communal issues. “The act of unfurling religious flags will provide the government an opportunity to begin a propaganda war against the peasant movement. There is a need to mobilise efforts to keep intact the secular and democratic character of this struggle… these communal elements must be routed and driven away,” he said in a statement issued late on Tuesday night.

Farmer unions have condemned the act of unfurling religious flags at the Red Fort (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

The unions blame Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu who they say hijacked the main stage at Singhu border late in the evening before the Republic Day and incited the farmers to breach the barricades and reach Red Fort. The unions say that along with the breakaway group, Sidhu’s role in inciting farmers had a big hand in the developments of R-Day which have definitely hurt the protest. “We were not part of that decision (to go to Red Fort) and we condemn it. It was not the decision of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha or the AIKSCC. Our movement was peaceful and that is why as soon as we got the information, we disassociated ourselves from it and condemned the whole act,” says Sunilam.

He goes on to say that the unions are now focused on the organisation of the march to the Parliament on February 1 to ensure that it is organised well and does not turn out like the Tractor Rally.

“We have given a call to reach the Parliament on February 1, that’s our programme. We want that the Parliament must be responsible for the Acts that they have passed and made all the farmers to stay out and suffer in the extreme cold. It is all due to the decision of the Parliament. They must own up the farm laws and they must repeal them now,” says Sunilam.

On the question of violence erupting again during the February 1 march, Sunilam says that it is the joint responsibility of the protest organisers as well as law and order agencies of the government as they have a role and responsibility in maintaining peace as mandated by the Supreme Court which they cannot abandon and then put the blame on the farmers. “Like today 99 pc of the movement was totally peaceful so that’s what we can assure of. The remaining things have to be dealt with by the Delhi Police and the intelligence agencies so that if they see there are some miscreants, they should know how to deal with it. That is what the Supreme Court had also said that there is a law and they must abide by it. We will not take law and order in our hands and we will not allow anyone to take it in their hands,” says Sunilam.

“Whatever we do, we do it in a very transparent and responsible way and that we own it. But whatever has happened today is a very small splinter group. There were more than 500,000 people in the tractor rally today all over the country and if some people have done some mischief or they had their own agenda, then we cannot be made responsible for it. We are out of it very clearly,” he adds.

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