Farmers’ rally allowed after Republic Day event ends
The Delhi Police on Sunday gave in-principle approval to farmers to carry out their tractor rallies in the national capital from three border points – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur – on Republic Day, even as the police said there were inputs that some elements in Pakistan could make attempts to disrupt the event.
The police permitted the tractor rally after the Republic Day celebrations end in the afternoon on Tuesday.
The three routes are around 194km in length, of which over 100km will fall inside the national capital, said Dependra Pathak, special commissioner of police (intelligence). The police said there would be around 40,000 Delhi Police and paramilitary forces personnel deployed on January 26.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Friday told farm unions that the government would not repeal the three contentious agricultural laws, and a proposal to suspend the legislation for 18 months was the best it could offer. The farm unions said that they would be going ahead with a tractor rally in Delhi on January 26, but said they would do it after India’s Republic Day celebrations and not disrupt the official function.
While the police pegged the number of tractors at around 30,000, farm leaders said there would be about 250,000 tractors entering Delhi from the three border points.
Late Sunday evening, the farm leaders held a press conference, assuring that their rally would be peaceful and that no one would be allowed to consume intoxicants or carry weapons of any type. In a press statement after the briefing, the leaders said that their volunteers will take action and remove tractors from the rally if they deviate from the decided route or park on the roadside.
The police said that the three routes were chosen to ensure there was no disturbance to the Republic Day parade, the central parts of the city were unaffected and there was as little trouble to local residents as possible. Pathak said that the permission was granted after the police ensured that adequate security will be provided to the rally to ensure that it is carried out with “dignity, honour and respect” even though “clouds of threat hover” over the event.
“An analysis by the Delhi Police’s intelligence unit and other security agencies has revealed that between January 13 and 18, at least 308 Pakistani Twitter handles were tweeting using hashtags that could create disturbance in the rally. There are also inputs of attempts to cause violence by Pakistan-based terror groups. But we are prepared to ensure the rally happens without any trouble,” said Pathak.
During the press conference, the police also shared screenshots of tweets from proxy accounts in Pakistan, journalists in Pakistan and one political leader from the neighbouring country tweeting with “#Support Khalistan”. The officer said that social media influencers such as Radio Pakistan and other prominent handlers were also tweeting about the farmers’ protest.
Detailing the route for Tuesday, the police said the farmers at the Singhu Border will cover 63km and their rally will pass through places such as Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, Kanjhawala, Bawana, and KMP Expressway before returning to the same place. The rally from Tikri will pass through Nangloi, Najafgarh, Jharoda, and KMP Expressway and cover a distance of 62.5km. The farmers at Ghazipur will drive their tractors through Apsara border, Hapur road and Kundli Expressway while covering a total of 68km. Police teams will escort and tail the vehicles at the three places.
The farm leaders said they will move at a speed of 20km per hour and that they have many vehicle mechanics and enough fuel to ensure that the tractors do not break down.
Pathak said they will ensure the tractors keep moving, no tents are set up anywhere, space is provided to emergency vehicles and there is proper coordination between the police and the farmer volunteers – at least 2,000 such volunteers are in touch with the police.
“We are bringing along 50 private ambulances, a host of vehicle mechanics and carrying extra fuel to ensure vehicles do not stop. We’ll be moving at not more than 20km/hr speed,” said Kulwant Singh Sandhu, the general secretary of Jamhuri Kisan Sabha.
The police will try to ensure that the rally ends the same day, but Pathak said it would depend on the number of tractors that turn up at the rally. As per police estimates, there are about 15,000 tractors at the city’s borders, but they are aware that more are on the way.
“If there are about 30,000 tractors in all, we should be able to wrap up the rally by the end of the day. But anything more than that could spill over to next day,” said another senior police officer who did not wish to be identified.
But Sandhu said that there will be at least 200,000 tractors and the rallies could range from 24 hours at Ghazipur Border to 48 hours at Singhu and Tikri border points. “In a place as far as Ludhiana, trucks moving towards Delhi are travelling in two lanes,” said Sandhu.
What the police as well as farm leaders agreed on was that the farmers will return to their respective places after the rally, and not camp inside Delhi. “We trust them to return,” said Pathak. Sandhu agreed. “We are a disciplined force,” he said.
A consensus on the routes was arrived at on Sunday after six “marathon meetings” between the farmers and the police forces of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana over the last week.
“Along the routes, we have arrangements for evacuation and providing medical aid to the farmers in case of any trouble,” said Pathak.
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