Misguided path & unexpected turn of events at Ghazipur border

Diversion of few created chaos for all, say farmers

Politics

January 27, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Misguided path & unexpected turn of events at Ghazipur border

Amidst clashes and tear gas shells fired by police at the approaching tractors & groups of farmers breaking barricades & proceeding to enter Delhi, farmers from Ghazipur border managed to start their rally (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Police and farmers from Ghazipur border clashed at various points till ITO intersection, after which the tractors moved towards the Red Fort. Volunteers admitted to being not able to keep a check on the unexpected and spontaneous crowd that joined the tractor march.

Violence broke out early on Tuesday morning just as the tractor rally of farmers at Ghazipur in eastern Delhi had begun its fateful journey. With batons charge and use of tear gas shells by the police in an attempt to disperse the crowd of approaching tractors, friction had been building up between the protesting farmers and the police right from the word go.

While the agitated farmers claimed that the police had put barriers despite permission for the pre-planned tractor march, the police insisted that they had orders to only allowed a certain number of them and without any trolleys attached to the tractors.

Since the wee hours on the morning of the 72nd Republic Day, volunteers according to an estimate, at least 15,000 tractors poured in at the protest site unexpectedly. “It is not just an assembly of a few thousand farmers but an accumulation of long-brewing frustration against the regime and revolt of an agitated lot against the current government,” Sukhwinder Singh, a 72-year-old farmer from Punjab, told Media India Group.

The scenes during the tractor rally in Delhi on this Republic Day were indeed stark. On the one hand, there was the official parade on Rajpath, with political leaders, Army officials, bureaucrats and ambassadors in attendance; And then there was the people’s parade, comprising the peasantry on the roads leading to Delhi.

Volunteers and coordinators were stationed to the left of Ghazipur flyover, the designated point for the rally to begin. As individuals and small groups of farmers tried to push through or slide past barricades before the official starting time, these volunteers caught hold of them and held them back. “We have been on duty at this point since 6 am and people have been trying to get through ever since. Though we are able to keep most in control, some are behaving unruly. We have been asked to stay here till leaders ask us to start,” said Singh.

However, Singh and hundred other volunteers like him were not able to hold on for very long and a group, comprising of about 100 to 150 farmers broke off early and started clashing with the police deployed at the border.

Amidst clashes and tear gas shells fired by police at the approaching tractors and groups of farmers breaking barricades and proceeding to enter Delhi, farmers managed to start their rally.

Smoke from teargas shells had filled the entire area in dense fog (MIG Photos/ Aman Kanojiya)

Hundreds of tractors, almost all with the national flag and flags of several farmer unions at their bumpers, marched ahead, with loudspeakers blaring patriotic songs which filled even the local residents and passerby with feelings of patriotism. For a few minutes during the flypast featuring Indian Air Force’s Rafale aircraft, all those sitting in the trolleys looked up at the sky and marvelled at the flying prowess displayed by IAF pilots and saluted them.

While the farmers on road and raised slogans and called for unity, the locals, shopkeepers and even passersby on their way returned farmers’ calls in affirmation and added to their enthusiasm.

As the protest advanced, some of the protestors, numbering a few hundred, attempted to break from the designated route and the rally. This led to confusion on the site and a large number of the farmers followed the route taken by those breaching the agreement reached with the Delhi Police on the route that the rally was to take.

At about 12 noon, farmer groups and police officials clashed at multiple points that include the toll tax collection centre on the Delhi-Meerut expressway, near Akshardham temple, at Sarai Kale Khan, before the ITO flyover, and finally at the ITO intersection, from where a large number of protestors headed towards the Red Fort in North Delhi. Despite the clashes with police, they advanced and reached the Income Tax Office junction in the national capital.

“This is our country and we wish to enter the capital. Going to the Red Fort is our right,” says a farmer in his late 40s, from Uttar Pradesh. The confusion and split between groups of farmers were clearly visible from the fact that while a group said that they would remain peaceful, wait there or even return to the Ghazipur border if required, others around the group called them ‘timid’ and headed towards the city centre.

At ITO, several farmer groups from different places also vandalised the outer premises of the Delhi Police headquarter and several police vehicles (MIG Photos/ Aman Kanojiya)

At ITO, several farmer groups from different places also vandalised the outer premises of the Delhi Police headquarter and several police vehicles as well as DTC buses parked nearby. The action here was more intense than other places and the clash between the protestors and police saw many tear gas shells being fired and violent incidents of lathi-charge that injured several farmers as well as the police personnel. The smoke from teargas shells had filled the entire area in dense fog and as a result, the farmers themselves, as well as the reporters covering the protest, struggled to open their eyes and breathe properly.

Farmers’ leaders admit things got out of hand entirely but say they had not expected such a big and spontaneous turnout and which got out of control. Harjeet Singh, who is a member of the Ghazipur Kisan Andolan Committee and was among the ones in the favour of a prolonged but peaceful rally, said the most likely reasons for the breakaway groups was the size of the protest surpassing expectations and several farmers joining too late to be briefed on guidelines for the rally.

“Leaders had made announcements from the stage and spread the word through our volunteers. However, many joined in even later. They might not have known what the route was. Everybody also wanted to be at the front of the rally. Wherever they found a way, they pushed forward. The numbers were so large that coordinators could not keep track of who went where,” he said.

“It might be extremely difficult to keep a check on all those misbehaving but I can confidently say is that 70-80 pc of the farmers who breached the rules are not members of any farmers’ union and they might not have felt bound to directives issued,” he added.

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