A year since violence broke out in the national capital on the Republic Day following a tractor parade by farmers protesting against central farm laws, the Delhi Police has arrested around 160 people and registered 54 cases, officials said on Tuesday. As India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day on January 26, 2021, thousands of protesters entered Delhi on their tractors and wreaked havoc on roads, clashed with police, and even hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort, a privilege reserved for the Indian tricolour.
According to Delhi Police officials, around 160 people have been arrested in connection with the violence that unfolded last year, of which 20 were held for the violence at the Red Fort. In addition, 54 cases were registered, of which, 16 are with the Crime Branch. In May last year, the Delhi Police had filed a 3,224-page first chargesheet against actor-activist Deep Sindhu and 15 others.
The Crime Branch, which was tasked with the probe of the Republic Day violence case, had also filed a supplementary charge sheet against Sidhu and others on June 17, they said. Sidhu, who was accused of being the key conspirator of the violence, was arrested on February 9 and later released on bail, officials said.
Ahead of the Republic Day last year, the SKM, which comprised various farmers organisations and was protesting at Delhi borders, had proposed a ‘Kisan Tractor Rally’ on January 26 and held several meetings with the Delhi Police which later approved their proposal with specific conditions. Several tractors and two-wheelers took part in the 16-km-long rally which started from the protest site at Singhu border and those protesting at the Tikri and Ghazipur borders too joined the parade.
The parade that was to highlight the demands of the protesting farmer unions to repeal three new agri laws dissolved into anarchy on the streets of the city as tens of thousands of protesters broke through barriers, deviated from routes, attacked police, and overturned vehicles.
From Rajpath to Red Fort, protesters, atop tractors, on motorcycles and some even on horses, broke police barricades and entered the city at least two hours before they were supposed to start the tractor march as approved by the authorities. At the Red Fort, the protesters broke the gates and entered its wells. A section of the crowd also managed to climb atop the rampart of the historic monument where they hosted a religious flag.
Videos of policemen being forced to jump off the wall to escape had surfaced while a particular clip of a protester allegedly swinging swords also went viral. He was later arrested by police. Tension prevailed in other parts of the city as well. ITO resembled a war zone with a car being vandalised by angry protesters and shells, bricks and stones littering the wide streets.
A protester even died after his tractor overturned near ITO, one of the major flashpoints that further worsened the situation causing violence. According to police, over 390 police personnel were injured while 30 police vehicles and 428 barricades were damaged in the violence. The Delhi Police also named 37 farmers leaders, including Yogendra Yadav, Medha Patkar and Rakesh Tikait, in connection with an FIR in the matter.
Speaking to PTI, Shiv Kumar Kakka, a core committee member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which spearheaded the protests, said what happened last year on Republic Day has got nothing to do with the farmers’ movement. “It was a conspiracy against the movement. But still we owned responsibility and apologised to the nation. We had apologised for a fault that we never committed. We are sad over that incident,” Kakka said.
The farmers’ union had last year distanced themselves from the violence that broke out in Delhi but in its aftermath, the number of protesters at the three sites had gone down. However, the agitation carried on. It was only after the three laws were repealed in parliament on November 29 that the farmers suspended their agitation and began vacating Delhi borders where they had camped for more than a year.
With PTI Inputs