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Redfort under siege

The violent protests by sections of farmers on 26 January appears a pre-planned attempt by a section of protesters to enter Delhi in hordes. Widespread damage was caused to public property. Despite the assurance of the farm leaders on sticking to the routes agreed to with the police, a section of protesters invaded and hoisted  their flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort.

The ‘Lal Qila Chalo’ programme should have been well-planned and mobilised through social apps. Thousands of tractors moved towards Delhi for weeks from different cities; there were claims of mobilising 100,000 tractors for the march. Several of the drivers told TV reporters that their intention was to march towards Lal Qila.

One was reminded of the unpreparedness of Washington DC that witnessed rioters running amok, entering the Capitol and invading the chambers of the highest legislative body of the US.

The Red Fort is under the control of the army. It was pathetic to witness the helplessness of the jawans unable to prevent protesters climbing the flag mast and even the dome beside and hoisting flags and causing damage to the monument.

Failure to anticipate…

It is surprising, even shocking, over the lack of anticipation of the government and the Delhi police on the possibility of such a mayhem and preparing to tackle it. It didn’t require a Sherlock Holmes to anticipate such mayhem. Close to 100,000 have been camping at the three borders of Delhi for over two months. These supposedly belonged to over 40 farmers’ organisations with no common leader who could command the following of all. Remember, many of these are rival to one another and also comprised non-farmers and political activists, ever ready to oppose government policies; even terrorists could intrude into these crowds. 

clear foreboding…

On 10 January there was a clear foreboding: Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar planned to address a ‘Kisan Panchayat’ at Kaimla village, near the Singhu border, to explain the features of the three farm laws. Well-ahead, protesters invaded, damaged everything at the venue and even the dais was wrecked. The helipad prepared for landing the helicopter of the chief minister was invaded and occupied and the meeting had to be cancelled.

In a series of discussion programmes organised by news television channels, leaders of the farmers’ unions assured: “the tractors march would be peaceful and will stick to the three routes agreed upon with the police.” An important condition was to start the tractor procession at 12 noon after the conclusion of the Republic Day parade by 1130 hrs. Yet, as early as 0800 hrs, hundreds of tractors started to move into central Delhi deviating the agreed route.

On 12 January the Supreme Court [SC] stayed the implementation of the three farm laws. It also constituted a four-member committee to make recommendations to resolve the impasse. But the SC refused to pass an order on the tractor rally. On 18 January, the court held that the tractor rally was a matter of ‘law and order’ and that the Delhi police was the authority to decide.

There is a contradiction in the approach of the SC. In its verdict on 07 October 2020 on the Shaheen Bagh protest, SC ruled that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely and protests must be carried out in designated areas. Reiteration of this could easily have prevented this mayhem.

India Today TV provided the best coverage deputing 15 of its correspondents and senior reporters right from the morning. These braved hostile crowds and provided real time views on the mayhem. But all news channels relayed the Repulic Day parade in full till 1130 hrs totally unconcerned with the farm protesters running amok! 

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