“Here's What Really Happened During the Republic Day Tractor Rally”
Delhi witnessed unprecedented scenes of chaos and violence on Tuesday - on the nation's 72nd Republic Day - as groups of farmers protesting the centre’s agriculture laws clashed with police and security forces during what was supposed to be a peaceful tractor rally around the city's borders.
For several years now, a few days prior to Republic Day, a state of “high alert” regarding security threats is invariably declared over the entire city of Delhi. This year too, a “high alert” was proclaimed on January 17, 2021 by the Delhi Police through a circular. Yet, despite such a state of “high alert”, Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu and his companions easily managed to barge into the Red Fort premises through its main entrance on Republic Day! When the Delhi Police had sounded an alarm about likely terrorist threats that Delhi could face ahead of the Republic Day, how and why was a key national monument like the Red Fort so easy to access on January 26, 2021? It is a known fact that the Red Fort has been a target of terrorist attacks on several occasions in the past:
•On December 22, 2000, one such attack resulted in the deaths of two security guards and a civilian.
•On October 12, 2016, it faced another terrorist threat.
•In February and May 2017, explosives were recovered from wells within its premises
FLAGGING THE MOTIVE
What exactly was the purpose of unfurling the Sikh religious flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort on January 26 when no flag other than the National Flag was permitted to be hoisted on the national monument after Independence? The pretext that it was to uphold the cause of the farmers does not hold; on the contrary, it is more likely that the devious move was hatched to provoke outrage and actually denigrate the farmers’ movement.
There certainly is ground for expressing deep indignation at what transpired. However, from the highly sensational manner in which the Hindutva Rightwing and sections of the media propagating their agenda played up the incident – claiming that the national flag had been replaced by a “Khalistani” flag on the Red Fort ramparts by the farmers – it was difficult not to believe that there was a scripted element to the sequence of events.
WHY DID THE POLICE “FAIL” TO STOP THE TRACTORS AT THE BARRICADES?
The truth is that the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the farmers’ movement, had no plans to go anywhere near the Red Fort on January 26, 2021. Therefore, the concerted attempt by the powers that be to hold the SKM responsible for all the unruly events at the Red Fort on January 26, 2021, reeks of a calculated conspiracy to malign the SKM.
On its part, the MHA may have slapped UAPA and sedition charges on the SKM leadership as a show of prompt action, but in reality, it is the home ministry which needs to explain to the people of India how hundreds of tractor-riding farmers not only managed to cross the supposedly heavily barricaded entry points into the city center but also succeeded in breaching the tight security at the entrance to the Red Fort, climbing on to its ramparts to plant the Sikh religious flag there unhindered.
As per the agreement arrived between the farmers’ unions associated with the SKM and the Delhi Police on January 24, 2021, three specific routes near the border areas of Delhi (which were roughly about 20 to 30 kms away from the city centre) were chosen for holding the Tractor Parade by farmers on Republic Day.
However, some sections of farmers who were not associated with the SKM had made a public announcement on January 25, 2021, that they would not abide by the said agreement between the SKM and the Delhi Police. Instead, they took a decision to proceed east from the scheduled turning point on NH-44 (just ahead of Mukarba Chowk) on to the Outer Ring Road, which would have led further into the city centre and directly to Red Fort situated about 20 kms away. This was contrary to the decision to turn away from the city in the north-west direction. Similarly, a section of farmers at the Ghazipur border (in East Delhi) too had decided to proceed to the Red Fort in defiance of the SKM-Police agreement regarding the Tractor Parade route.
It is also a fact that while agent-provocateurs enacted their assigned roles to perfection by attacking the police to provoke them and create mayhem at ITO and the Red Fort, the vast majority of farmers who strayed away from the designated Tractor Parade route by mistake remained peaceful and conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion. There are also reports from local volunteers that on the Tikri-Nangloi route, some miscreants had attacked the Tractor Parade disguised as policemen.
It is difficult not to conclude that there was, indeed, a deep conspiracy to malign the farmers’ movement. Therefore, it is all the more necessary to conduct a full-fledged inquiry into how and why the Red Fort was left unguarded on January 26, 2021 and why the Delhi Police miserably failed to effectively barricade the three entry points into the city at Mukarba Chowk, Ghazipur border and at Nangloi Chowk.