Farmers hoist flags at Red Fort, intensifying clashes with police

Thousands of protesting farmers who stormed into Delhi with their tractor rally, poured into the Red Fort complex by afternoon, as violence continued in parts of the city. Visuals from the spot showed them climbing a flagpole at the ramparts of the iconic Mughal fort, from where the Prime Minister addresses the nation on Independence Day. As tractors take over the Ram Leela Maidan outside the fort — the original site where they had planned their protest — farmers are heard saying that they will not leave. Violence broke out in the morning as farmers broke barricades and entered Delhi ahead of time and veered from the agreed-upon route. Videos from various spots showed them clashing with the police, throwing stones, and using sticks and rods.

Farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades and clashed in Delhi on Tuesday, prompting the police to fire tear gas at them, shortly after a convoy of tractors trundled through the city’s outskirts.

TV news channels flashed images of farmers hoisting flags at Red Fort in the heart of Delhi, with hundreds of them deviating from agreed routes. Farmers commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down roadblocks miles from routes approved by the police, forcing the police in riot gear to fall back and let them pass during Republic Day celebrations, news reports said.

Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped outside New Delhi for almost two months to protest against three laws that open up India’s agriculture markets. Nine rounds of talks with farmers’ unions have failed to end the protests, as farm leaders rejected the government’s offer to delay the laws for 18 months, making a push for repeal instead.

The protesting farmers have also announced a foot march to Parliament on February 1, when the annual Budget is presented, to press for their demands including a repeal of the three new agriculture laws.

Thousands of farmers knocked down barricades at Delhi’s borders, clashed with the police and entered the heart of the national capital on Republic Day as they took out a tractor rally against the government’s new agricultural laws. Amid the chaos, protesters were tear-gassed and baton-charged. The disarray was caused after the protesters – allowed to hold the “Kisaan Parade” between 12 and 5 PM – began the march much before time and deviated from the agreed routes.
As the country celebrated its 72nd Republic Day, farmers had been given permission to take out their tractor rally in Delhi after the annual parade at Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard. Crowds, however, swelled at the borders at around 8 AM even before the parade started. Some cops were injured while trying to stop the protesters.

Stunning visuals showed farmers breaching barriers at the Singhu border near Haryana, the epicentre of protests against the farm laws that began late November. More than 5,000 protesters had gathered on the outskirts. A dramatic video from Delhi’s Akshardham showed policemen firing tear gas shells from an overbridge as protesters on road looked for cover. At Mukarba chowk, protesters reportedly hurled stones at cops. In Nangloi area, the Riot Control Police was on standby.

By afternoon, a large group had reached the iconic Red Fort. They were seen within the ramparts of the iconic Mughal-built monument, trying to put up their yellow flags at the spot where Prime Ministers hoist the national flag. Within an hour, as the crowd trickled, a farmer told : “We came here to deliver a message to the centre. Our job is done. We will go back now.”
“Majority of those who breached the barricades at Nangloi and marched towards central Delhi have been pushed back. Few might have gone ahead. We are in touch with farmers’ leaders. Let the rally stick to its designated route. Today is national festival, Republic Day. Nothing should be done which disrespects that,” police officer Shalini Singh said.

On Sunday, Delhi Police had allowed the tractor rally after the annual Republic Day parade. The protesters were told they can’t disrupt the celebrations at Rajpath even as the farmers insisted their parade will be “peaceful”. However, the cops had also sounded a warning. “Mischievous elements can create a law-and-order situation,” Deependra Pathak, Special Commissioner of Police (Intelligence), said at a news conference.

“Over 300 Twitter handles have been generated from Pakistan during January 13 to 18 to disrupt the tractor rally by farmers only by misleading people. There are inputs about the same from different agencies too. It will be a challenging task for us, but the rally will be conducted amid tight security after the Republic Day parade is over,” he added.

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