Home minister takes stock of situation in urgent meet
- Shah directed that additional central paramilitary forces be deployed in Delhi with immediate effect and individuals and groups behind the Red Fort seize be brought to justice.
As groups of stick-wielding farmers on Tuesday clashed with the police and forced their way inside the iconic Red Fort to hoist a flag, Union home minister Amit Shah convened an urgent review meeting with senior officials, including home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Delhi Police commissioner SN Shrivastava and Intelligence Bureau director Arvind Kumar to assess law and order in the National Capital Region.
Shah directed that additional central paramilitary forces be deployed in Delhi with immediate effect and individuals and groups behind the Red Fort seize be brought to justice, people familiar with the development said. The home minister was supposed to join his colleagues at the President’s ceremonial At Home event, which is a biannual gathering of ministers, diplomats, top bureaucrats in the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhawan after Republic Day and Independence Day, but had to skip it due to the situation that was unfolding.
One of the officials cited above said intelligence agencies as well as the foreign ministry are particularly concerned over farmers hoisting a flag from the staff of Red Fort, from where India’s Prime Minister usually unfurls the national flag every year on Independence Day. In particular, the concerns were triggered by several Pakistani twitter accounts celebrating the incident. One of the handles purportedly belonged to All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), founded by former Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff, which said the flag hoisted by farmers was as a ‘Khalistani flag’. The claim could not be verified but agencies began monitoring social media.
The government also decided to suspend internet for 12 hours at the five border points where protesters gathered - Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk and Nangloi.
One of the officials said that additional 1,500 to 2,000 paramilitary forces’ jawans are being deployed in Delhi. Around 4,500 paramilitary personnel were already deployed for law and order duties before the Republic Day along with the Delhi Police.
Delhi Police had given permission to the farmers protesting against Centre’s three farm laws to conduct their tractor rally on some pre-selected routes but several groups deviated, determined to reach the heart of the Capital.
The umbrella body of 41 farmers union, protesting against the laws since November 28 at Delhi borders, distanced itself from what they said were acts by anti-social elements.
According to a second security official, the challenge for them was to move farmers out of the Red Fort and from their protest points inside the city to acceptable areas of protest. They wanted to achieve this in a manner that would be firm and yet peaceful. When asked if there had been any laxity in security, an official of the Intelligence Bureau said farmers had backed out of undertakings they had given. “This wasn’t the first time that the farmers had resorted to a form of violence. When they were first trying to come to Delhi at the beginning of the agitation, they had broken barriers then too,” said the official, asking not to be named.
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