Degeneration of tractor rally from Singhu Border to Red Fort

Peaceful protest lies in tatters after clashes in Red Fort

Politics

January 26, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Having traversed distance of close to 30 km from Singhu Border to Red Fort with grit and determination but peacefully, mayhem broke loose when protesting farmers entered the historic monument and damaged some fixtures in the 17th century world heritage site.

“This is not what our protest was all about. We have been protesting peacefully for months and even been at the borders of Delhi without any incident. But today, to see some people turn to violence, attack the police and damage a piece of history that is shared by the entire nation was extremely heart-breaking,” Ankit Pradhan, a theatre artist from Meerut, tells Media India Group while standing at the stairs of the Red Fort, with a piece of cloth covering the injuries on his head that he sustained when he tried to prevent a group of farmers from attacking a policeman.

Pradhan says that the day’s violence at Red Fort has disheartened him and that he was not sure about whether he would continue to support the protest like he has been doing for the last two months.

The violence indeed left many of the protestors also shocked. Seeing a handful of youth trying to rappel up to the top of the Red Fort, while the policemen on duty were pleading with them to get down, a group of farmers criticised their colleagues. “Such actions will only tarnish the protest which has earned people’s respect and we will end up wasting all the hard work put in by millions of farmers all over India over the past four months,” they tell Media India Group.

The violence broke out rather suddenly and without any clear trigger. Having breached with ease and with a certain grace dozens of barriers placed by Delhi Police all along the route, the protest reached Red Fort early afternoon. Thousands of farmers swarmed the grounds in front of the Red Fort, taking selfies and groupfies with celebratory gestures and with loud cries of “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” (Blessed be the one who takes His name). “We had set out to reach Delhi and show to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi what we are capable of. None of his tricks to stop us could work and we finally reached the heart of the capital,” says a group of young farmers from Amritsar.

The entire atmosphere resembled a village fair as people sat down on the grass lawns and enjoyed the hazy afternoon sun. However, just behind them scores of protestors, mainly youth, entered the premises of the iconic fort and climbed atop, hoisting flags of the Kisan Morcha as well as the Sikh flag on the ramparts.

“We had come to conquer, and so we have. If we Sikhs set out to do something, no one can stop us. Let Modi learn his lessons from today’s march. It is time that he repeals the laws so we all can go back home which we have left over two months ago,” says a group of farmers from Naggal Sarsa on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.

For almost two hours, the farmers went in and out of the fort at will and peacefully even as dozens of policemen stood guard but let them pass freely. However, all of a sudden, the situation went out of control as an a group of about 150-200 angry protestors disputed with the police. The dispute degenerated into violence and as police resorted to a mild lathi-charge inside the fort premises.

This enraged the farmers and they in turn attacked the police force, attacking them with sticks, rods and stones. In the melee, a few policemen were hurt, including at least a couple who sustained head injuries. All this while, some farmers were trying to protect the police, forming a human chain in front of the cops and pleading with their colleagues to remain peaceful and not resort to violence.

However, the violence spread to other parts of the fort and the protestors attacked police vehicles parked over there. They also turned on several media persons on the spot. The small group of protestors also smashed the spotlights used to illuminate the historic monument and destroyed some furniture used by police.

The situation remained out of control for over two hours as protestors continued their standoff with the police. Finally, it was after a group of protestors were allowed to go atop the Fort again to put flags of the protest and some specially-decorated horses allowed to parade that the protestors calmed down.

After the horses returned, a special prayer meeting was organised inside the Fort and then the protestors began to disperse, shouting slogans of victory.

It was almost dusk when the first tractors began to leave Red Fort grounds to head back to the Singhu border, which has been their home for the past 62 days.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee condemned the violence and said that its members were not part of the violence, which they blamed on a small group of miscreants who took the law into their hands. “We have been running an entirely peaceful protest for last two months. Today, over 500,000 farmers marched through Delhi for hours and despite all attempts of Delhi Police and the central government to put barricades in their path and stop them, they remained peaceful. We condemn any violence that may have occurred today and disassociate the Kisan Morcha from this. We repeat our commitment to a peaceful protest,” D Sunilam, member of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, a body that groups representatives of 250 farmer organisations from across the country, tells Media India Group.

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