Farmers breach police barricades at Singhu, Tikri protest sites
Police used tear gas on groups of protesters when they tried to break barricades and cemented barriers at Delhi’s Mukarba Chowk as tens of thousands of farmers began a tractor procession through New Delhi’s outskirts on Tuesday in protest against three agricultural laws passed in September. This came shortly after protesters breached police barricades at farmer protest sites of Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur on Tuesday to force their entry into New Delhi.
The procession began ahead of the time granted for it with tractors festooned with Indian flags and farm unions from neighbouring states driving into the national capital for the procession coinciding with Republic Day celebrations.
Men and women danced on beats of dhols as people lined roads and showered petals on the protesters. Police tried to convince farmers to stick to the decided plan of holding the tractor parade after the conclusion of the Republic Day parade.
A large number of farmers also marched on foot holding flags of different farmer unions and raising slogans. Some of them were seen riding motorcycles and horses.
Residents were seen distributing food and water bottles to the protesting farmers.
News agency PTI quoted a police officer saying: “As per the agreement, they were supposed to start their parade at the time specified but they forcefully entered Delhi and are currently peacefully sitting at Mukarba Chowk. They are supposed to head towards Bawana side as per the route [plan], but they are adamant that they want to go towards Outer Ring Road.”
He added the situation is peaceful and they were trying to convince them to go towards the designated route at the specified time.
Reuters quoted a farmer saying their word should travel around the world and that they are fighting for their lives. Devinder Singh, the 36-year-old farmer from Punjab, added: “If we lose our farmland, how will we survive?”
Hundreds of policemen, including some with assault rifles, tear gas, and a water cannon, stood guard along the procession route as trucks were used to barricade the main route to Singhu.
Police on Sunday allowed farmers to rally along approved routes on the outskirts of Delhi.
With their tractor procession, the protesters seek to rival the spectacle of the official Republic Day celebrations on the Rajpath boulevard in pomp and pageantry. The leaders of the agitation plan to follow up with a march on foot to Parliament on February 1, when the government presents the Union budget.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha said that while the Republic Day rally is planned as a one-day event, the scale of the protest could mean that the rally could spill over to the next day by the time they return to their starting spots located at three different rally routes in and around the capital.
Police have said about 30,000 tractors are likely to participate in the rally. But farm leaders said the number of vehicles will be closer to 200,000 as the agitation will continue till the demand for repealing three contentious farm laws is met.
Police have allowed Tuesday’s parade to cover a length of 194km on stretches crossing the three principal border points that have become protest sites over the last two months.
Farmer leaders have appealed to tractor parade participants to carry enough ration for 24 hours and ensure that the rally remains peaceful.
The farm unions have pressed on with a protest against the Centre, opposing the agricultural laws that ease restrictions in farm trade, allow traders to stockpile large quantities of food stocks for future sales, and lay down a national framework for contract farming based on written agreements.
The government and farm unions have been unable to find a solution to the stand-off over 11 rounds of talks. The farmers last week rejected a proposal by the Centre to put the laws on hold for 18 months.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday reiterated that farmers should accept the government’s proposal to suspend the laws.