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Protests turn violent as angry farmers take to New Delhi’s streets



farmers protest
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Thousands of farmers used their tractors to tear down the road barricades.

In order to avoid interfering with morning celebrations marking India’s Republic Day holiday in central Delhi, farmers protesting India’s new agricultural laws were expected to start a procession of tractors through the city at noon local time. But, in the midst of some apparent confusion among protesters, farmers began to dismantle barricades about two hours early.

The protest had already threatened to upstage the yearly celebration of the creation of the Constitution of India. A lavish military parade was overseen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and news channels showed surreal scenes of Mr. Modi saluting officers as chaos broke out just a few miles away in several parts of the city.

farmers protest

As evening fell in New Delhi, at least one person had died and many parts of the city still felt under siege. It was unclear whether the security forces, or the farm leaders who seemed to have lost control, were able to drive the protesters out of the city and back to the camps that they had occupied at the border of the capital for the past two months.

“Farmer agitators broke the agreed terms and started their march much before the agreed time,” the Delhi police said in a statement, confirming that several members of the force had been wounded, without providing numbers. “The path of violence and destruction was chosen by agitators.”

Tractors pushed aside a shipping container placed to block their route as police stood by helplessly at the city’s border with the village of Ghazipur, where farmers have been camped out for months in protest. Elsewhere, over approved march routes, thick clouds of tear gas rose as farmers on tractors, on horses and on foot forcefully started their rally hours ahead of schedule.

farmers protest

TV news showed that the farmers waved flags and taunted police officers. They also violated the Red Fort, the iconic palace that once served as the residence of the Mughal rulers of India, and hoisted a flag on top of the fort that is often flown in Sikh temples. Many of the farmers protesting are from Punjab, a part of the country that is predominantly Sikh.

Long swords, tridents, sharp daggers and battle-axes were carried by many farmers, functional if largely ceremonial weapons. It is obvious that most of the protesters at the demonstration that day were not wearing facemasks.

“Once we get to Delhi, we are not leaving until Modi repeals the law,” a farmer from Uttar Pradesh state told reporters.

Large groups of tractors and protesters disrupted the monitored routes, tipping over buses and violently clashing with overwhelmed police officers armed with wooden batons as they marched toward the centre of Delhi.

farmers protest

By early afternoon, Delhi police officers had deployed assault rifles in the area. More terrible photos had shown the police in the middle of key roads, armed with rifles, staring down protesters. In certain places, the police used their batons to beat protesters.

Some of the most violent clashes occurred near India’s income-tax office and an old headquarters of the police force. To prevent the farmers from bringing their tractors into the city, the police fired several volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The state television broadcast that it showed protesters tossing a dead body of a protester onto the roadway nearby. They had reported that he had been shot, but not independently verified. Several injured people were carried away saying that they had been injured when a farm dump truck crashed. A CCTV video showed one tractor crashing into a barrier, which led to the vehicle flipping over.

India’s government has temporarily suspended internet connections in border areas where it has been holding large protests for months.

The demonstration of the farmers on tractors are manifestations of Indians anger and disappointment in the central government. However, despite the political gains made by this Prime Minister, farmers have voiced their disapproval of his decisions.

In September 2013 Mr. Modi presented three major agricultural policy changes. But many farmers complained that the loosening of regulations put them at a disadvantage as giants of industry replaced them.

As their protests become larger in numbers and with more anger, the government decided to enter into a compromise with the farmers. The high court intervened in ordering the suspension of these legislations until the government reach a compromise with the farmers.

The farmers believe that higher income from exploitation is better than nothing at all. In addition to taking part in their protest during Tuesday, they will march to Indian Parliament on February 1, when the new budget would be presented.

Government officials claimed that insurgent elements would cause violence if the farmers were allowed in the city. Recently, farmers’ leaders brought before the media the young man they claimed to have detained on suspicion of a plot to shoot the leaders. The claims made by these two sides could not be independently verified.

farmers protest

There was some uncertainty about the length of the march as it got underway. The Reuters news agency reports, citing “documentation from the Delhi police”, that the march will begin only after the high-profile Republic Day parade concludes. Some news articles said that the number of tractors was capped to stay inside the city.

On Monday, farm leaders in Delhi failed to convince people that the bandhs were arbitrary and were planned with no regard to the law. The suggested routes were a proposal that would allow the protesters to walk close but not reach the centres of state power.

About 150,000 tractors were being prepared for the march in the capital, and that over 3,000 volunteers would help maintain order, while 100 ambulances would be ready to take care of the injured.

Many crop farmers in the march appealed for peace and respect.

farmers protest

Remember, our goal is not to take over Delhi, but to win the hearts of the people of this country.

“The trademark of this agitation was its peaceful character,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, a main leader of the agitation. “I appeal to our farmers, to our youth, to keep this agitation peaceful.” The government and its agencies are distorting the facts intentionally. Watch out for it.

“If we choose to be peaceful, we will be victorious.” If we raise our voice to violence, Modi will win.

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Mahesh is leading digital marketing initiatives at RecentlyHeard, a NewsFeed platform that covers news from all sectors. He develops, manages, and executes digital strategies to increase online visibility, better reach target audiences, and create engaging experience across channels. With 7+ years of experience, He is skilled in search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and advertising, and analytics.

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