Sticks, stones at Singhu as group enters site, clashes with farmers

  • Eyewitnesses said that the farmer was intending to drive the stone-pelting mob away, even as police said that he attacked the officer.
The stone-pelters clashed with the police, protesting farmers. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
The stone-pelters clashed with the police, protesting farmers. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Published on Jan 30, 2021 05:51 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A group of around 200 people who said they were locals entered the Singhu border protest site despite heavy barricading and police presence on Friday, and clashed with both cops and farmers in an incident that led to injuries to an SHO and several others.

The SHO of Alipur, Pradeep Paliwal, was injured after he was hit on his left palm by the sword of a protesting Sikh farmer. Eyewitnesses said that the farmer was intending to drive the stone-pelting mob away, even as police said that he attacked the officer. There were also visuals of police personnel and members of the group of counter-protesters beating the farmer with lathis.

Gurkirat Singh, 22, a farmer from Gulalipur village in Tarn Taran district of Punjab, said the incident unfolded before him. “The violent crowd which had come to attack us was throwing stones, sticks, and bricks. The farmer was trying to chase the mob away. Instead, he was attacked by police and the mob, and the officer got hurt in the process,” he said.

Delhi Police said they have registered a case of attempt to murder, rioting, obstructing public servant on duty and other sections against the 25-year-old farmer, Ranjeet Singh from Nawanshahr district in Punjab. Police said 44 people from both groups, who were indulging in violence, were caught at the spot.

“At least five police personnel sustained injuries. The 25-year-old protester who injured inspector Paliwal has been arrested, and the sword has been recovered. We are verifying the identity and the affiliation of the 43 persons arrested in the case. They belong to both groups,” said a senior police officer.

Farmer leaders said at least 15 protesters were hurt during Friday’s clashes.

How it began

The main protest site at Singhu border -- where hundreds and thousands of farmers have gathered at different points over a 64-day protest, and where tents now stretch for more than 10km -- is divided into two parts. First is the Kisaan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) stage, and then a larger Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) stage about 500 metres away.

At around 12.30pm, over 100 people claiming to be locals managed to come close to the KMSC stage by crossing police barricades set up over 1km before the tents begin. They were raising slogans of “goli maaro...” (shoot the traitors) and branding the farmers as “Khalistanis”. Some of them had covered their faces with mufflers and handkerchiefs.

These protesters claimed to be anguished by the insult to the national tricolour during the Republic Day tractor rally by farmers that descended into violence, and particularly by the hoisting of a Sikh religious flag alongside the national flag at Red Fort.

Many among them had come to the protest area on Thursday as well, demanding the removal of farmers. HT reported on Thursday that the protesters included members of groups called the Hindu Sena, the Hinda Yuva Seva Sangh, and the Delhi Dehat Vikas Manch (DDVM), which is a collective of about 50 villages.

“Some of us had gone to Alipur police station to submit a letter calling for clearing the highway and we sent a similar letter via email to Delhi police commissioner and Lieutenant Governor. While we were returning, we got to know of the incident. Our people told us that farmers had become hostile leading to the clashes. If we had been there, we could have stopped the situation from escalating,” said Anup Singh Maan, general secretary, DDVM.

Ravi Das, who was part of the group, said he was a local resident and was bothered by the farmers’ protests. “We wanted farmers to clear the highway. They were carrying weapons like swords, so we had to save ourselves. They started throwing stones,” he alleged.

The group was briefly stopped by the police at the point of entry at the barricades set up on one carriageway near the Singhu border toll plaza. However, they soon jumped over to the other side and rushed at the tents set up by the farmers, disrupting their lunch langar.

Rare breach

It was a rare breach of the security setup on a day when Delhi Police did not allow any vehicles to cross the barricade. Only those on foot were allowed after stating the purpose of their visit. Aam Aadmi Party leaders Satyendar Jain and Raghav Chadha were also not allowed to visit the protest site on Friday morning.

“We had come here to ensure that the farmers have water and adequate facilities for toilet and cleaning. But the police are not allowing the Delhi Jal Board water tankers to pass. This is a human rights violation. The BJP government is treating farmers like terrorists,” said Chadha, AAP MLA and DJB vice chairperson. Jain added, “The police are telling us that they have orders from above to not allow water tankers. We asked them to show the orders, but they didn’t do that.”

At around 1.40pm, the counter-protesters began pelting stones at farmers, and they retaliated. The two groups threw sticks, stones, and bricks at each other, injuring several people and leading to the police firing several rounds of tear gas shells to control the situation.

Kashmir Kaur, 60, a farmer from Wali Pur village in Tarn Taran district, said she was sleeping inside a tent set up for women – close to the flashpoint. “We were resting when the first tear gas shell entered the tent. I couldn’t see because of it and had to run towards the other side. Our blankets and clothes caught fire as well. I don’t know why police were firing tear gas shells towards us when they [the mob] was the one attacking us,” she said.

Though police were able to take the counter-protesters away from the main site around 2pm, nearly 30 minutes later, another round of stone-pelting began despite the presence of personnel from the Rapid Action Force. The police then led the group to around a kilometre from the protest site.

Around 3pm, however, the group entered a Guru Tegh Bahadur memorial on the side through a gate near the barricades and replaced farmer union flags with the tricolour, before being chased away by the security forces.

KMSC member Kuldeep Singh, 56, a farmer from Lohian in Jalandhar district, said: “These elements were sent here to provoke us. How is it possible that when water tankers are not being allowed, a mob of around 100 people managed to enter, damage our langar, and throw stones at us amid police presence,” he said.

Near one of the concrete barricades set up on Friday after the incident, a group from Tarn Taran district sat huddled. “Around a dozen of us will participate in vigil and patrol in batches of three. Today, all of us will stay awake and keep an eye,” said Karaj Singh, one of the protesters in the group.

(with inputs from Abhishek Dey)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Kainat Sarfaraz covers education for Hindustan Times in Delhi. She also takes keen interest in reading and writing on the intersections of gender and other identities.

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