New Delhi: After the Republic Day tractor protest went violent, agitating farmers on Wednesday called off the prescheduled march to parliament which was to happen on February 1, the day of the government’s budget announcement.
The protesting farmers on January 25 had announced plans to intensify their agitation against Centre’s three farm laws in order to put pressure on government to withdraw these ‘anti-farmer’ laws.
“On February 1, we will march on foot towards Parliament in Delhi from different locations,” had said Darshan Pal from the Krantikari Kisan Union, one of the nearly 40 groups protesting at Delhi border.
Tens of thousands farmers have been protesting against these agriculture laws, which they say benefit big private buyers at the expense of growers, since November 26 and have so far adopted different techniques to make their demands heard. In December, they had organised a nationwide strike, blocking key roads in cities across the country.
On R-day, intended “peaceful” march turned violent after farmers’ restraint ended and they started marching towards Central Delhi from the boarders before the permitted time of the tractor rally defying routes and crushing barricades. The tractor rally was supposedly to start from 3 spots outside the Delhi borders and was given 10 am to take out the procession after the traditional Republic Day parade by the armed forces at Rajpath which ended around 11.30 am, one and a half hours after agreed upon time for the rally.
As per reports, the farmers started to pour in at the borders at around 8 am even before the parade begin and thousands entered the national capital on foot. Trending visuals showed farmers breaching barriers at the Singhu border near Haryana, which is the epicenter of protests against the three contentious farm laws that began on November 26.
The violent protest showed a police bus hijacked by farmers in Delhi’s ITO, while another clip from Akshardham showed policemen on an overbridge firing tear gas shells on the protesters standing on the road looking for a cover. Protesters were also seen vandalising a bus even though their leaders repeatedly insisted that the protests will be “peaceful”.
While, the R-day violence killed a protesting farmer as his tractor overturned, clash between police and farmers reportedly injured 394 police officers and constables in the R-day violence.
The violent display of protest was called out by many famers’ groups and political parties. Denouncing it the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, group of farm unions organising the protests, condemned the violence which saw some protesters carrying ceremonial swords and forcefully entering into the iconic Red Fort complex as police used tear gas and batons to constrain them.
As of now, more than 25 criminal cases had been filed, with 19 arrests and 50 people detained to date.
According to reports, on Wednesday the unions were to hold rallies and a hunger strike on Saturday but as of now there would be no planned events on Monday, when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is due to present the annual budget.
“Our march to parliament has been postponed,” farm leader Balbir Rajewal told a news conference. “ (But) our movement will go on.”
“The violence occurred because terms and conditions were not followed,” he said. “Farmer leaders were involved in the violence.”
Till now, 11 rounds of talks have been held between protesting farmer unions and Centre but all of them have remained inconclusive so far. Though the government has offered a hold of 18 months on the implementation of the contentious laws but the farmers have rejected it reiterating their demand for complete repeal of the legislature.
Republic day tractor rally is also farmers’ way to make their voice heard on international level and intensify their agitation. Meanwhile, the Delhi police has given permission for the January 26 rally provided that they don’t venture in main city but could could carry out protest after Republic day parade at the outer boarders of the national capital. The Police has also made elaborate arrangements for the rally, which the farmers have assured will be peaceful.