Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Violence and Hope for solution

  • A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential

The moment an agitation turns violent, it should be withdrawn. The violence of any kind is not acceptable in democracy. Farmers agitation took form of tractors rally on Republic Day, which facilitated entry of agitating protestors into the national capital. None can argue that there is no violence on republic day in Delhi. Police and farmers suffered injuries. Barricades were broken. Two or more flags were hoisted on Red Fort when thousands entered Red Fort and climbed on to the top. Though one farmer died, it was not in firing or lathi charge.  None can say that there were no violent incidents.

https://indianexpress.com/photos/india-news/unseen-photos-of-farmers-protest-rally-violence-delhi-7162705/ This link has 16 photos that explain the violence.  This is one of those photographs:

A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential

Both the Police and farmers have acted in great restraint and the violence was effectively controlled. In my view both deserve appreciation for the reasonability of their action and restraint.

But one cannot rule out the role of anti-social elements, anti-national forces, Pakistani-agents or elements, sabotage by others who support the ruling disposition, and mistakes or wrongful decisions by both the sides for the violence witnessed by the nation on its 71st Republic Day. Most unfortunate. The role of fake news, rumours, wrong interpretations by biased media damaged the reputation of farmers and the police.

Also Read : Farmers protest: Ganatantra Turns into Ranatantra

Two months old agitation was peaceful, very cautious in guarding it from those wanted to sabotage the agitation. They exposed some attempts by the anti-farmer groups to damage the reputation and peace of the agitation, aimed at political gains for the ruling party.

FIRs and arrests

Reportedly the Delhi Police on 27th January detained around 200 protesters on charges of rioting, damaging public property and attacking police personnel, in which 230 to 300 cops have sustained injuries.The police have also filed 22 FIRs so far that mention the names of at least 10 farm leaders, including Yogendra Yadav and Rakesh Tikait.

Main incidents of violence against which the police filed FIRs are: Breaking away from the designated route for the rally, hundreds of protestors felled barriers at the borders, clashed with police, and entered the city from various points to lay siege to the Red Fort and climb the flagpole on Republic Day on Tuesday.  There were clashes at ITO and Red Fort, wherein most of the people (including police) were injured. (Based on reports https://indianexpress.com/photos/india-news/unseen-photos-of-farmers-protest-rally-violence-delhi-7162705/12/)

It is impossible to say who are guilty and what exactly was happening in the chaos in Delhi on one side, while on the other side, the traditional Republic Day parade happened successfully without any problem from the protestors. That is a great news. The death of a person cannot be discredited to any wing of the state because it was reportedly because of the turning of tractor. Its sad that a media reported first that the death was caused by police firing, which was later proved not correct. For a while, such a wrong assertion on social media created tensions.

A farmer beaten. Photo from social media
A farmer beaten. Photo from social media

Changing from agreed routes and Blocking the decided route

There are two kinds of incidents that resulted in chaos and violence. On one side, the farmers have deviated from the pre-determined routes and entered into new areas causing surprise and law and order problems. On the other hand, there are strong objections from the protestors that the police have blocked the routes on which they permitted the protestors to pass through with their tractors.

As part of the protests against the Centre’s farm bills, farmers’ unions and the Delhi police had chalked out agreed-upon circular routes from Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri borders for the Republic Day tractor parades.

Also Read : Deep Sidhu, main accused for Delhi violence

It was decided that the protesters will enter Delhi but remain in areas near the border from the three entry points. Several protesting groups, however, veered off the course and were met with police lathicharge and tear gas shells. They entered the iconic Red Fort and hoisted flags from some domes and from a flagstaff, on the ramparts of the fort, used to unfurl the tricolour on Independence Day.

Most of the barriers were removed by the protestors, reasons could be one of the above mentioned. In the process of removing barriers the violence erupted. If the route is agreed upon why the barriers were erected by police? This question cannot be answered by the police who stood guard at those barricades because they might have followed the orders of the higher officers.

The police have turned the five-kilometre stretch of a part of the road, that was accepted to be the route of rally, into a fort, making it impossible for anyone to get in or out. As the protesters’ tractors entered all of those hundreds of vehicles stranded before such barriers. There was an altercation with police who could not give any assurance of allowing the tractors to join rally beyond that area. When the rally arrived on the road, police started firing tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. A section of the crowd responded by throwing stones at the police vehicles. It is reported that ‘this is when a group of elderly farmers stepped in and requested police to let them pass. “There are hundreds of tractors. They can’t go back now. We want to return to Tikri,” said a farmer to the ACP on duty.By then a group of young men, visibly agitated by the tear gas shelling, forced themselves through the police cordon and broke open the barricades. Some got into a bus, which the police had parked tactically to block the way. Within minutes, a group had somehow managed to start the bus, drive it a little way and park it near the adjacent drain, thus opening a way for the tractors to pass.

Police personnel had, by then, given up and stood by the side of the road to let the rally go. What could have been a major violent clash between police and farmers was somehow prevented by quick thinking on both sides.  Both deserve appreciation.

Once the rally got going, it seemed that it would not end at all. Most tractors had the tricolour, the Nishan Sahib and the flag of the BharatiyaKisan Union aloft. Participants of the rally were vocal with loud patriotic songs. Every tractor was packed to the hilt by men, women, the elderly and the young. Rally participants were perched and standing on the roofs as well. Posters demanding the repeal of the farm laws were stuck on every other rally vehicle, marking the protesters’ intentions clearly.

As people stood and watched, half an hour passed but the tractors kept coming. Slogans of “Kishan Ekta Zindabad” or ‘long live farmers’ unity’ had filled the air. A few among the crowd took on the responsibility of keeping the spectators off the road and the tractors on their path.

“The rally followed the pre-approved route. But constant barricades on this approved route became a nuisance for us. Once the barricades were broken, there was chaos and the rally couldn’t follow the same route. Most of us do not know our way around Delhi. Even we are struggling to find our friends,” said the farmer.https://thewire.in/reportage/ground-report-farmers-tractor-rally-republic-day-delhi. This is just one incident that could be studied as the probable cause of clashes and chaos.

Also Read : Farm Harm Law –II: Centre Removes the State’ power to regulate supply of Essential Commodities

The Role of Fake News

Fake news has a definite role in escalating violence. This is regarding the flags that were hoisted on Red Fort.  Thousands of protestors entered the Red Fort area climbed up the fort and hoisted the flags. Which flags? That was a controversy until the realty check agencies cleared the rumours and fake news. This incident sparked off into two widespread wrong claims: 1) the protestors took down the Indian national flag, and2) replaced the tricolour with the Khalistan flag.

Pakistani elements were waiting for opportunity to damage India and provoke further riots. Here is a Pakistani tweet provocation:Indian Flag Removed Flag of Khalistan is waving on Red Fort.Historic Moments.#IndianRepublicBlackDaypic.twitter.com/HWsrlDvVDQ, — Pakistan First (@APMLOfficial_) January 26, 2021

Then a tweet of Rahul Shivshankar, Chief Editor of Times Now.


In reply tweet following image is posted.

A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential

Then the question remained is what are these flags? Are they Pakistani flags, Khalistan Flags? Another question is whether they were hoisted in place of our National Flag?

These are factual questions need to be ascertained after verification. But the riotous situation does not wait for confirmation or verification of the facts. The tweets surely add fuel to commotion and cause tensions.

Also Read : Violence in Delhi after farmers take out rally

That the flag unfurled from the mast pole was the Khalistan flag is massively viral on social media. Among those who amplified the claim were BJP Delhi spokesperson Harish Khurana, parliamentary secretary of Varun Gandhi, Ishita Yadav, and BJP supporters Divya Kumar Soti, Vikrant Kumar, Sumit Kadel, Sumit Kadel, Sumeet Thakkar, Anurag Dixit and Shefali Vaidya.

One propaganda website OpIndia also wrote in an article that protesters unfurled Khalistan flag from the Red Fort.

A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential

Other twitter handles @NindaTurtles@ExSecular and @IamMayank_ also made similar tweets.

The facts are: 1. No disrespect to Indian flag.

It was found out by realty check groups that “the protesters hoisted a flag from an empty pole mast. They neither took down the Indian flag nor replaced it with a flag of Khalistan. There are several videos that confirm the same. In the video below, the tricolour can be seen atop Lahore gate (entrance to the Red Fort) as the protestor climbs the empty flagpost. Indian flags could be seen in several pictures, flying without any disturbance. There were some flags put up on domes from the fort.

Also Read : Backdrop of Indian Agriculture

2. They are not Khalistan flags.

The flags hoisted by the protesting farmers are the Nishan Sahib or Sikh religious flags.

“Whether yellow or saffron, triangular flags with the Khanda – two swords – are Sikh flags. They are not Khalistan flags,” said Amandeep Sandhu, author of Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines.

A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential

Alt news has cleared the picture with the above proofs.

Also Read : The LIEs as LAW-2: Analysis of the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Act, 2020)

He further added, “When a flag is hoisted as a symbol of regime change, the previous flag is brought down and the new flag is unfurled. In this case, the tricolour, the flag of India, continues to be hoisted. It has not been touched. The hoisting of the Sikh flag means that the people of the nation want to assert their identity as well. They want to be counted. They want the rulers of the nation to not take them for granted.”Journalist Hartosh Singh Bal also tweeted that the flags unfurled were Sikh religious flags, not Khalistan flag.

See https://thewire.in/communalism/fact-check-red-fort-flag-tricolour-khalistan-nishan-sahiband https://www.altnews.in/farmers-protest-no-protestors-did-not-replace-tricolour-with-khalistan-flag-at-red-fort/.

Farmers Leaders condemn the violence

News agency ANI reported that the Farm union leaders on Wednesday distanced themselves from the protestors who had clashed with the Delhi Police and stormed into the historic Red Fort complex a day earlier.

Also Read : Why farmers rejected Govt’s positive proposal?

The Scroll.in reported: “Bharat Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait blamed a conspiracy against a particular community for this violence. “Those who created violence and unfurled flags at Red Fort will have to pay for their deeds,” he added. “For last two months, a conspiracy is going on against a particular community. This is not a movement of Sikhs, but farmers.”The BKU leader also alleged that the police had wrongly placed barricades at some places which were approved by them for the tractor rally route, according to PTI. “This was done intentionally to misguide farmers,” Tikait claimed. “This gave antisocial elements the opportunity to enter the tractor rally.”He also added that people not aware of Delhi routes were driving tractors and hence went off the scheduled course. “Some of them unknowingly deflected towards Red Fort,” Tikait said. “Police guided them to return.”

A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential
A social media posting.

The Role of Deep Sidhu

Several farmers’ bodies have blamed actor Deep Sidhu and gangster-turned-activist LakhaSidhana for rampaging around Red Fort. Speaking about Sidhu, the BKU leader said he is a Bharatiya Janata Party worker and not a Sikh. “This is a movement of farmers and will remain so,” he added. “Some people will have to leave this place immediately – those who broke barricading will never be a part of the movement,” he added.SS Pandher of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee alleged that some protestors had joined the protest to defame the farmers’ movement. “We did not plan to unfurl the flags at Red Fort, this was not our programme,” he said. “Deep Sidhu’s photo with the PM has floated, we had already expressed doubt over him.”The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a defiant Punjab union, was the first to break from the agreed route and also responsible for tearing down barricades at Delhi’s borders, NDTV reported. Another KMSC leader, Satnam Singh Pannu, blamed the BJP of organising the Red Fort violence to tarnish the protests against the farm laws.

Also Read : Can’t ask PM to meet farmers: SC to farmers

“We had declared at the outset that we would take the Outer Ring Road,” Pannu said. “Even the SamyuktKisanMorcha [the group leading the farmer protests] had also said so, but it backed out later. We broke barricades only when the police stopped us.”Pannu also blamed Sidhu for the violence at the Red Fort. “Whatever happened at Red Fort is because of Deep Sidhu,” he said. “Why didn’t the police stop him at Red Fort? He is close to the ruling party.”

(https://scroll.in/latest/985202/farm-law-protests-farmer-union-leaders-allege-conspiracy-blame-antisocial-elements-for-violence)

Mr Vikash Aiyappa wrote in oneindia.com website about the role of Deep Sidhu in Delhi Chaos, on Wednesday. https://www.oneindia.com/india/the-role-of-deep-sidhu-in-the-delhi-chaos-3207957.html He wrote “The chants of Raj Karega Khalsa were heard loud in Delhi as actor turned activist Deep Sidhu handed over a kesri flag to a man to hoist on the ramparts of the Red Fort on Tuesday afternoon. Deep Sidhu has been attempting to take the leadership role of the movement, despite him being shun by the farmer unions at various stages. On Monday, Sidhu took over the main stage at Singhu along with gangster turned activist, LakhaSidhana. ..The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee was in favour of sticking to the original plan of holding the parade on the Outer Ring Road.

Deep Sidhu had a plan ready by Tuesday and first they started a march of their own before the official march of the farmer unions. They then positioned their henchmen in large numbers at a road turning towards Central Delhi. From there, they directed other tractors towards Red Fort instead of the agreed route. The volunteers who had tried to intervene were outnumbered by Deep Sidhu and The Sidhana group.

Also Read : Hold farm laws or we will, SC to Centre

In a video posted Facebook, Deep Sidhu said that they had hoisted the Nishan Sahib at the Red Fort, while exercising their democratic rights to protest. He said that in such a protest, people’s anger flares up and you cannot blame one person for inciting the protesters. He also said that they went to Red Fort as a symbolic protest and did not remove the National Flag. We hoisted the Nishan Sahib as a sign of unity in diversity. Do not see the incident in isolation as the farmers’ protest has been going on for months. He also said that the protesters did not go to Delhi to harm anyone or damage government property. He also added that the protest was peaceful and symbolic and the emotions of the people should be understood and no one person should be blamed for the mobilisation of the people.

PIL for probe

Two Lawyers Vishal Tiwari and Vineet Jindal have moved Supreme Court seeking to constitute Constituting an Judicial Enquiry Commission for Inquiry into the violent incidents which took place in Delhi on 26th January 2021 during the protesting farmers Tractor March in Delhi.Vishal Tiwari alleged: “There may be some Conspiracy to cause disturbance and to damage the peaceful protest by some notorious forces or organizations and create a clash between police and protesting farmers. Or it was due to the lapses (may be deliberately) from the side of police Administration to create such circumstances in which disturbances will definitely occur”. The PIL raised the questions: (1) Is police Administration is responsible for it or for creating Such Circumstances? (2) Are farmers responsible for breaking the conditions of tractor march and committing violence? (3) Or, is there some other force which wants to end the peaceful farmer protest by proving them wrong? (4) Or, are there some other forces or organization which in the shade of farmer protest wants to fulfil its ambitions and goals?

Also Read : Empower the Contractors & Companies and Disempower the Farmers & States

Another Supreme Court Advocate, Vineet Jindal has sent a letter petition to the Top Court, urging him to take suo moto cognizance of the disruptions and law and order situation created by the tractor rally.He submitted,”On 26th January ,2021 , the tractor rally was supposed to proceed after 12 noon after the conclusion of Republic Day celebrations but the tractor rally was started at 8 am in the morning instead of 12 noon and the route map allotted by Delhi Police was not adhered to, instead different route was undertaken by the tractor rally which caused hardship to Delhi residents.”

Also Read : 1.3 Lakh farmers are consulted through webinars! And 2.23 crore contacted by SMS!!

What is the top decision?

Former IPS officer and former Central Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad that permitting such a procession of tractors on Republic Day would certainly stretch maximum the strength of police and it would be almost impossible to contain the violence. He wrote; “It is impossible to maintain this kind of a rally or a procession which has no agenda but says only that we should have permission between 12pm to 5pm on a set of pre-decided routes. First of all, tractors are not meant for cities. They are meant for rural areas and they are dangerous too, especially in the context of intelligence reports.I’m sure there must have been intelligence reports from the Intelligence Bureau or the Delhi police, that there are elements in it, who will create problems. What was the idea of holding a rally on January 26 when the police resources are stretched to the maximum? He questioned. He concluded: “So I’m not too sure that as a police commissioner, I would have allowed a procession of this kind under any circumstance. Obviously this decision was taken from the top. And if that is so, they would have been prepared for the collateral damage, which has taken place”.https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/democracy-has-been-scarred-today-by-mobocracy-protesters-hoisting-a-flag-at-red-fort-3342977.html

Probe is the need

An impartial probe is essential to go into the causes of violence. When rally was to be held as per the permission from 12 noon or beyond, how can they enter at 8 am itself, what about the anti-social elements, possibility of sabotage and the role of Deep Sidhu, fake news and others should be probed.

Also Read : Why is AG asking SC about police powers?

The Centre deserves appreciation that it has shown a good gesture of offering 18 months suspension of controversial farm laws and declared that the talks would be continued even after the chaotic situation on Republic Day. The protesting famers have rightly called off the protest and asked all the farmers to return to their borders. There is still a hope for peaceful solution to the farm law issue, if the discussions continue.

A Probe into Delhi Chaos in Farmer’s Tractor Rally is Essential
Peaceful protests of farmers in Bombay
Peaceful protests of farmers in Bombay

Also Read : Failure of the Apex court’s Committee

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor of Law at Bennett University

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