Thousands of farmers have been protesting for almost two months against the Farm Bills passed in September 2020. After almost 11 failed rounds of talks, the protesting farmers decided to conduct a tractor rally on Republic Day.
On January 26th, 2021 thousands of farmers on tractors took to the streets of Delhi to register their protest. The police had been informed before and a route was agreed upon. For most of the farmers participating in the rally, Delhi was new. For many of them, it was their first time visiting Delhi. Even though the route had been decided, the authorities decided to barricade it with trucks, with hundred of policemen guarding it carrying assault rifles, tear gas and water cannons.
When the farmers reached the pre-decided routes and saw the barricading, they breached the barricading and tried to move forward. The police used tear gas to stop the protestors and things took a turn for the worse. A group of farmers also managed to reach the Red Fort and hoisted the Nishan Sahen flag on an unoccupied pole.
A few things need to be sorted first.
Unlike what a lot of media channels and propaganda websites and Twitter handles claimed, the flag hoisted was not a Khalistani flag, but the Nishan Saheb Flag. The protestors never replaced the National Flag but instead hoisted the other flag on an unoccupied pole.
What is most astounding and shocking is the presence of barricading on routes that were pre-decided for the rally and how a group of people managed to go all the way to Red Fort, even enter the premises and hoist a flag. How did the police not stop them? Protestors who hoisted the flag did a Facebook live and yet the police allowed them to leave the spot?
Various organizations, political parties, activists and journalists have started to raise these questions that point to a conspiracy to de-rail the movement, to weaken it by projecting it to be violent. A lot of media organizations have been talking about the violence against police personnel without acknowledging the violence caused by them.
Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson, Rakesh Tikait said, “The violence that occurred on January 26 and the Red Fort incident was a conspiracy to break the farmers’ movement and the government has succeeded in doing that”.
Lawyer and Activist Prashant Bhushan also tweeted and raised questions about the whole incident. He said, “This too the police knew and yet the police did not make a serious effort to stop these groups on Ring Road. They were allowed to go right up to Red Fort. This happened under the patronage of the police.”
Bhushan also accused the government of harassing genuine farmer leaders by registering false cases against them. “And now the police has registered FIRs, invoking UAPA besides sections of Indian Penal Code, against Yogendra Yadav and others despite their regularly calling out to their supporters to remain peaceful and conduct their protests in a non-violent and organized manner, and in accordance with the agreement,” he said.
During an event, Delhi University professor and political commentator Apoorvanand said, “On January 26, much of the rally passed through the designated route and a small segment came to Delhi and some incidents of destruction and anarchy took place at ITO and Red Fort. But these incidents were used to attack the farmers’ agitation.”
Congress also confronted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that the Red Fort breach was a conspiracy to defame the farmers. Congress Spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, “The Prime Minister says the nation was saddened by the insult of the national flag on Republic Day. Why have the main culprits — Deep Sidhu and Lakha Sidhana — not been arrested six days after the incident? The critical question is, how did these people enter the Red Fort? Nobody could have done that unless police allowed them to enter.”
Twitter has flooded with people asking a similar question.
Talking to ANI, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal said, “I have been to Red Fort several times. No one can reach the Red Fort without proper permission. During Republic Day, the security level should be at its highest but these people reached straight at Red Fort, they themselves are saying that ‘nobody stopped us’. So were they not stopped? How and why they reached Red Fort?”
Unidentified entities entering protest sites, creating violence, media houses running the same narratives to delegitimize dissent, protestors, activists and journalists being arrested for almost nothing. This all has become an everyday phenomenon.
Even though several attempts have been made to weaken a very strong people’s movement, to de-rail it, to label it as violent, the movement holds strong. The farmers are continuing their protest against what they believe to be unjust laws and continue to show solidarity and faith.