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HomeFrontlinesAsia-PacificThe Historic Disgrace: What happened at India's Republic Day

The Historic Disgrace: What happened at India’s Republic Day

26th of January, celebrated as Republic day in India; a day for which the entire nation awaits, a day known for its massive parade, a day which celebrates India’s unity and integrity, a day that makes our national capital lively. But this year, Republic day was marked by chaos and violence in our capital city, New Delhi. Today, thousands of farmers protesting against the agricultural reform; clashed through police barricades and tear gas to enter Delhi’s historic Red Fort compound.

Farmers, mainly belonging to Punjab and Haryana, have been for long, protesting against the new farm laws along the borders of the capital city, mainly Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri. In this process only, they had decided to protest even today, but were expected to start their procession of tractors in the noon local time, so as to avoid any sort of meddling in the morning celebrations and the annual Republic Day parade. 

But the farmers began their rally hours ago at round 8 am by pulling apart barricades, due to some seeming confusion within themselves. While the city on one side was witnessing the lavish military parade, oppositely, the other side was becoming the victim of chaos and disorder. 

Rioters attacking the policemen with swords and sticks. Image credit: Senior Photographer Praveen Khanna, The Indian Express
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On the Delhi border, a shipping container with two buses blocking the road was placed to stop the protestors from entering, but the protestors, with their tractors pushed them aside and entered Delhi, with police standing helplessly. In another place, when farmers forcefully began their rally hours ahead of their schedule, the police were forced to resort to lathi charge and tear gas.

It was not just a normal and peaceful protest, rather was marked by some anti-social elements. These protestors did not follow the approved routes of the protest, but happen to be rallying elsewhere- tripping over buses and violently conflicting with stunned police officers, armed with bamboo sticks. Many of the farm protestors were even carrying swords, tridents, sharp daggers and battle axes. Farmers on entering Delhi, took route through ITO reached and penetrated the historic Red Fort, created fracas in its campus and hoisted a flag over the fort that is seen on the Sikh temples. 

The police managed to roll them out from inside the Red Fort, from where the protestors took to Ramlila Maidan, the site which the farmers had originally planned for their protest. 

It was even noticed that many of the farmers weren’t wearing masks, in spite of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Noting, most violent clashes happened at a junction near India’s income-tax office and an old headquarter of the police force. The protestors there tried to break a final barricade and become violent. The policemen were seen running and walloping behind cars as rioters armed with sticks dashed at them, bumping their tractors into the buses parked by police.  

The rioters were even seen creating infuriation on the roads. One of the local televisions displayed that the protestors, placed a body of another protestor in the middle of the road, claiming him to be dead, though nothing could be independently verified.  We even found a CCTV footage aired on television showing one tractor flipping after crashing into a police barricade at high speed. In the area, protestors were even seen carrying wounded people, who said they had been hurt when the tractor stumbled over. It is even reported that one rioter died while clashing with police at ITO. However, the footage released clearly showed that he died when tractor stumbled while bashing through the barricades, and the policemen were the ones who dragged his body out in fears that the damaged vehicle may catch fire:

The Delhi police in a statement said, “Farmer agitators broke the agreed terms and started their march much before the agreed time”. They even informed that several members of the force had been wounded. “The agitators chose the path of violence and destruction.”

Seeing the raveling protests, the Indian government had to temporarily suspend the internet services in some of the parts of Delhi, as confirmed by an official at India’s home ministry.  The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had even closed entry and exit gates of several metro stations, mainly in the north and the central Delhi due to the escalated situation. 

When asked to Happy Sharma, a rioter from Uttar Pradesh, about what are the farmers planning, he said, “Once we make it inside Delhi, we’re not going anywhere until Modi repels the laws.”

Another rioter told NDTV, “We came here to deliver a message to the Modi government, our job is done. We will go back now.” “We managed to reach the Fort even though they tried to stop us. We will not stop till we reach our goal- the repel of the three farm laws”, a farmer said. 

Though planned to be a peaceful protest….

Reports in the local media, citing documents from the Delhi police said, that it was agreed between the police and the protest leaders that the rally would begin after the Parade ends. The report even limited the number of tractors and time span of the farmers in the city. 

But on Monday, the protestors denied these restrictions, nonetheless said that they would stick to the routes set out by the Delhi police. Maps of the routes proposed a sort of conciliation between the farmers and the police that allowed the protestors to enter the city but not get close to sensitive institutions of power. 

The farm leaders had even appealed repeatedly to the marchers to maintain peace, but the rally took a different turn. They said, “Remember, our aim is not to conquer Delhi, but to win the hearts of the people of this country”, and even appealed the marchers not to carry weapons, “not even sticks” and also to avoid confrontational banners and slogans. 

Balbir Singh Rajewal, one of the main leaders of the protest said that this protest has been a peaceful one till now and I request, “our farmer brothers, to our youth, that they keep this movement peaceful. The government is spreading rumors, the agencies have started misguiding people. Beware of it”. Continuing he said, “if we remain peaceful, we’ve won. If we turn violent, Modi will win.”

Today on seeing the violence, the Kisan Samyukt Morcha had deemed it to be a shameful act, disassociated itself from the chaos and appealed for calm. 

Condemnations

AAP, that was till now supporting the farm protests, strongly condemned the violence that broke out today. AAP said in a statement, “We strongly condemn the violence seen in today’s protests. It is regrettable that the central government allowed the situation to deteriorate to such an extent. The movement has been peaceful for the last two months. “ 

RSS said, “Incident at Red Fort unfortunate”. 

A meeting was organized by Home Minister Amit Shah to review the situation along with some senior police and government officials and decide if further any parliamentary presence is needed to restore peace. 

The sole cause of these ongoing protests are the three Farm bills that were rushed through the Parliament by Prime Minister Modi in September with the hopes that it would inject private investment into the agricultural sector. Countering it, the farmers said that the government’s facilitation of regulations would leave them at the mercy of the corporate giants that would take over their businesses. And from there began the protests, that have grown in size and agitation. The farmers started camping on the borders of Delhi in the cold, which has even led to deaths of dozens of farmers. 

Seeing the protests, government had even agreed to amend some parts, to reflect their demands. But the farmers are adamant and say that they will not stop short of a repel. The Supreme court even intervened in the matter and ordered the government to suspend the laws until any conclusion is reached with the farmers.

Note From Editor (independent from the author) – We will do a detailed analysis of the images and terrorist support (Khalistani) to the Sikh groups in a separate article. Inevitably, the Sikh community seems to be dragged into this with the intention of inciting Hindu-Sikh hatred by the anti-social elements with foreign funding. Also, many people, especially Punjabis, turned to social media to justify the acts of violence on the national and institutional symbols and their vandalism, with fake claims that no disrespect to the national flag or property had been done. However, images and videos state completely otherwise, for which we will do a detailed analysis in the near future. We urge the Sikh community leaders to uphold the sanctity and openly condemn these acts, instead of justifying what has been done, as it was majorly Sikh religious symbols used to incite hatred during the riots on the Republic Day.

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Khushi Jain
I am a word nerd and a culture vulture. I've always been an aficionado of social work and women's activism. You'll find me talking about the failing democracies, economic slowdowns, inter-state tensions, and so on, almost all the time.

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