The farmers’ rally of tractors that was promised to be peaceful by its organizers was a monumental fiasco, as the nation celebrated the 72nd Republic Day with a colorful parade in the nation’s capital on January 26. The so-called tractor rally turned out to be an unprecedented rioting by some unruly vandals, bringing disgrace to the farming community and genuine protestors.
This unprecedented rioting has amply proved that a rally that is conceived as part of an agitation and a parade that marks great celebration cannot go hand in hand on the same day. But unfortunately it happened in the capital city of the nation. The Central Government, with all the grace and magnanimity, has believed the leaders of the agitating famers when they have promised to take out a “peaceful” rally of tractors simultaneously on a day of national celebration. The government has trusted the agitating leaders of the farmers.
During the recent days, the nation’s capital has become a “playground” for unruly mobs. This is not the first time that Delhi has seen a large-scale vandalism and rioting. The Republic Day rioting has been the second one in a year. The first one was in February last year while the US President Donald Trump was on a state visit to India. It was on a different kind of partisan issue – it was a planned communal violence against a national issue, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). As many as 13 people were killed in that rioting – the deadliest violence that Delhi had seen in decades. The clashes first broke out on February 23, last year between the supporters in favor of a new Indian citizenship law and those against it. But the violence had religious overtones too, with anti-CAA factions targeting pro-CAA groups in the city – Shaheen Bagh was the epicenter. The violence escalated in the Muslim-majority neighborhoods in north-east Delhi – about 11 miles from the heart of the capital, where Trump was holding meetings with Indian leaders, diplomats and businessmen.
But the rioting on the Republic Day took place as a sequel to the tractor rally taken out by unrelenting farmers, who have been agitating for the past two months. These farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been pressing for their one-point agenda – the repeal of three farm laws enacted by the Indian Parliament and approved by the President of India in September last year.
The agitating farmers have been unrelenting on their demands: 11 rounds of meetings between their leaders and the government yeilded no result; the intervention of the Supreme Court by appointing an advisory panel, which was not acceptable to farmers; and the government agreeing to keep the laws in abeyance for 12-18 months, had not brought any reprieve to the agitation.
Instead, the leaders of the agitating farmers have asked the government to permit them to take out a rally of tractors – supposedly a symbol of their pride – in a show of their strength. And, on an assurance of the farmers’ leaders that the rally would be peaceful and no political party would be allowed to participate in the rally, the government has conceded to their demand by giving them a roadmap for the tractor rally to follow. The farmers have been also told that their tractor rally would only begin after the official Republic Day Parade on the Raj Path.
But some unruly elements among protestors belied the trust of the government. They ignored the schedule given to them. According to the schedule, the rally should be held between the hours of 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m. on January 26. But the tractor drivers at Singhu and Ghazipur borders began to challenge the policemen as early at 6:30 a.m. on that day. A large section of the so-called farmers consisting of vandals broke their promise, barged onto the city roads with their thousands of tractors with brute force beating the police, throwing stones and breaking the barricades. The tractors grossly deviated from their prescribed routes and entered city from all sides. They laid siege of the historitc Red Fort. It appears the rioting has been well-planned with the connivance of some farmers union activists and an actor-activist, Deep Sidhu, who the police has issued a look-out notice as of this writing. Some farmers’ leaders are trying to distance themselves from the incident saying they never advocated violence.
The tractors have been used as “army tanks” in pushing and destroying the heavy barricades erected by the police, and their vehicles. The drivers have driven their tractors helter-skelter terrorizing the people and the police. In doing so, a driver was crushed by his own tractor, which turned turtle when he drove rashly scaring the people. Thousands of vandals, who have been armed with sticks, swords and other sharp weapons, wielded them against the people and the policemen, who have exercised extreme restraint. Many policemen have been injured, some of them critically, and hospitalized.
The way in which the vandals have targeted police, their vans, public vehicles, and their bikes is an indication that some leaders of the farmer unions or protestors may have been aware of the plan. Otherwise, the vandals wouldn’t have broken the locks and latches of the huge main entry gate of the Red Fort, which has sizable security. Tractors have been used to push the barricades and the police guarding them into the moat near the entrance of the Red Fort. Without a preplan it would not have been an easy task to climb the ramparts of the Red Fort and hoist a religious flag – Nishan Sahib – on the top of the flag post. It is an act of disgracing the country in which they have been living. The national flag flying on the top of the Red Fort is a symbol of country’s sovereignty. No proud and self-respecting Indian would tolerate any disrespect to the national flag.
There should be no doubt about the hand of divisive separatists, and that some foreign forces have been also behind the whole act of senseless vandalism and destruction that they have wrought in the nation’s capital.
No amount of excuses by some of the leaders of farmer unions could exonerate them, and it isn’t easy to convince the nation that they are not aware that vandals and anti-social elements have infiltrated into their “peaceful” agitation. It is a shame that some leaders of the farmers have been accusing the government of being lenient towards the vandals.
If these farmer leaders are genuinely interesting in undoing atleast some of the damage caused, they should honorably and immediately dismantle their tents erected along the approaching highways leading to the capital city, call off their agitation, convey their genuine grievances, if any, to the elected government and allow it to redress them through democratic process. In a democracy, respecting the laws of the government is respecting the people who have elected it. Any violation and violent action to resist the laws of the land is a disgrace to the nation. There is no place for the brute forces and anti-social elements in a democracy.
– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.
Picture Credits: news.yahoo.com