Police give ‘in principle’ nod for Republic Day tractor rally in Delhi
The police on Saturday gave an ‘in principle’ nod to farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders to carry out their proposed “tractor march” on Republic Day, covering a distance of around 100km within the national capital.
Delhi Police did not officially share details of conditions that were laid down for granting permission for the rally.
A police officer, privy to the meeting between police and farmers, said, “The approval was given in principle for now. The farmers will have to give a signed undertaking that they will not enter the New Delhi and central Delhi areas on Republic Day. The proposed routes will be in the vicinity of places where farmers are already protesting, but within the national capital. They will also have to give an undertaking that the rally will not disrupt Republic Day arrangements. We will speak to them again tomorrow.”
Police teams will escort the tractors on the day of the rally to maintain law and order.
In the undertaking, the farmers will have to share details of the number of tractors, timing of their rally, number of protesters and their day’s plan, among other details. Police will then verify the undertaking and issue a “written permission.”
According to farmer leaders, police have allowed them to enter the national capital from five different routes that will be decided by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha — a group of several farmer organisations protesting against the three new farm laws across the country— by Sunday.
Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan said farmers will enter Delhi from all the existing protesting sites — Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur, Shahjahanpur, and Palwal. “The farmers will enter the national capital on January 26 and take out a parade on Republic Day for the first time. It will be historic… There won’t be any fixed duration for the parade since all tractors coming from different parts of the country will participate in it,” he said.
Yadav said the farmers will cover a distance of over 100km in Delhi during the parade. “All farmers will return to their protest sites afterwards. There is no plan to stay in Delhi. We will take out a peaceful march. It will not have any effect on the Republic Day parade or security arrangements,” he said, adding that the Sanyunk Kisan Morcha will finalise the route and make it public on Sunday.
Another farmer leader, Rajinder Singh Bir Singh Wala, said there won’t be any cap on the number of tractors entering Delhi on Tuesday. “We have asked the farmers to prepare tableaux on their tractors and trolleys but their height should not be too much, for safety purposes. All tractors, including those already there at the borders and those coming from different parts of the country, will participate,” he said.
But president of Krantikari Kisan Union, Darshan Pal, said the march may continue for two days. “The number of tractors participating in the march is huge. It will take time to finish the march. It might take two days to complete it,” he said.
Police officers who attended the meeting said they reached a consensus with the farmers following several rounds of meetings since January 18. “ In principle, we have agreed that the tractor rally will only be in areas around the borders where farmers are on sit-in protests. They won’t come to central Delhi via Ring Road. For example, the tractor rally from Singhu border will enter Delhi and will move around areas such as Alipur, Bawana, Narela, and other adjoining areas. The rally starting from Tikri border will cut through Nangloi, Mundka, Sultanpuri. Similarly, farmers at the Ghazipur border will be allowed to take their rally out in Ghazipur, Anand Vihar, and towards Apsara and Bhopra borders,” a second police officer said.
On Saturday, the protesting farmers said they had increased security at protest sites, a day after a man, after being caught by farmers at Singhu border, alleged that efforts were being made to incite violence.
At the Singhu border, volunteers were seen checking bags and packets of visitors near the main gate area. “Our leaders have asked us to remain vigilant. We are checking the handbags of women visitors also because the man who was caught yesterday told us that there are two women in his group, who are at the protest site in an effort to incite violence,” said a farmer volunteer.
On Saturday, volunteers at Tikri border were also seen asking protesters to remain vigilant. Harinder Bindu, head of the women wing of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said, “Efforts are being made to disrupt our protest. All the volunteers have been asked to remain extra careful and keep an eye on visitors. The protesters living in trollies and tents have also been asked to keep a check on their surroundings. Volunteers are also checking bags and frisking people.”
Kulwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of Jamhuri Kisan Sabha in Punjab, said that the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha has decided to form a team of 2,000 volunteers to keep a vigil during their Republic Day tractor rally. “These volunteers will also be provided uniforms and they will keep an eye out to prevent any untoward incident during the march,” he said.
Security up at borders
Delhi police on Saturday increased security at the interstate borders, where farmers are camped. Senior police officers claimed that the security was increased in the backdrop of the full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day.
“Unlike previous years, the security is more this year because of the protests. There are chances that criminal elements may try to disrupt Republic Day preparations by posing as protesting farmers. The idea was to ensure that such groups do not get to mobilise and disrupt the dress rehearsal or the preparations in Delhi. The extra security will stay until the completion of the Republic Day celebrations,” one senior office said.
The increased reinforcements is also significant because on Friday night, the farmers had held a press conference to allege that the Haryana Police had planted some men among the protesters to fuel violence during the tractor rally on January 26.
Also, on Friday afternoon, a farmer who had come to Vigyan Bhawan, got violent and vandalised his own vehicle when police refused to allow him entry since his name was not mentioned in the list of farmer representatives. There was no complaint filed or action taken against anyone in the incident.