Tear gas fired as farmers break police barricades, begin tractor parade much before scheduled time
Despite assuring Delhi Police of starting their rally only after the the official Republic Day concludes, farmers camping at borders started marching into the national capital on their tractors.
NEW DELHI: Thousands of farmers protesting against the three farm laws began their first of a kind tractor parade in the national capital, much before the time they were granted permission by Delhi Police for the event.
At Delhi's Mukarba Chowk, security personnel used tear gas on groups of farmers as they tried to break barricades and cemented barriers with tractors at Delhi's Mukarba Chowk.
While farmers' unions assured the Delhi Police that their tractor parade would only start after the official Republic Day concludes, farmers camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur started marching into the national capital on their tractors.
Security personnel tried to convince farmers to stick to the decided plan, but they did not relent and forced their way into the city.
Tractors bearing flags were seen, along with men and women dancing on dhols, and locals on both sides of the road showering petals on cavalcades.
Farmers also held their tractor parade in other parts of the country as they intensified their agitation against the three contentious farm laws.
A member of the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 unions, leading the protest at several border points of Delhi, said those who broke the barricades belonged to the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee.
An official said that police personnel used tear gas on groups of farmers coming from the Singhu border point to disperse them after they tried to hold their march on Outer Ring Road.
Gyan Singh, 65, from Punjab's Firozpur walked on foot, said it is a test of his physical and mental strength, adding they "will keep walking till the last point."
"We have been enduring the vagaries of weather for months now. It doesn't deter us. This should give a message loud and clear.We accept nothing but a win," said Rampal Singh, 62, from Haryana's Kaithal.
The protesting unions has also announced a foot march to Parliament on February 1, when the annual Budget is presented, to press for their demands including a repeal of the three agriculture laws.
Heavy security has been deployed in view of the 'Kisan Gantantra Parade' that will move into Delhi from the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points.
On Sunday, Delhi Police had allowed the tractor rally after the annual Republic Day parade.
The protesters were told they can't disrupt the celebrations at Rajpath even as the farmers insisted their parade will be "peaceful".
Meanwhile, a tractor with two farmers on it overturned during a stunt at the Delhi-Noida border.
The tractor was being driven in a circular path at a high speed when it lost balance and overturned, while the two persons on board got minor injuries during the act at the Chilla border in the morning.
The sight of the overturned tractor, bearing a tricolour and a flag of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu), was short lived as several protesters came together to put the vehicle back on its four tyres.
Chanting 'rang de basanti' and 'jai jawan jai kisan' numerous farmers rode tractors, motorbikes, horses and even cranes to cross the national capital's borders into the city for their proposed parade against the three contentious farm laws.
Locals stood on both sides of the roads at various locations showering flower petals on the farmers amid drum beats.
Standing atop vehicles decked up with flags, the protesters danced to the tune of patriotic songs such as 'Aisa desh hai mera' and 'Sare jahan se achcha'.
"People think farmers are only meant to plough their fields. But there is much more to a farmer's life. We also ride motorbikes and horses though we worship our tractors as it helps in earning our bread and butter."
"Today, everything is on display in this historical rally," said Gagan Singh, a protestor riding a horse to the parade.
Parmajeet Bibi, a woman in her late 40s, who was riding a tractor said, "Women are not just cooking at community kitchens. We help men in fields and we are riding tractors in this rally to send out a strong message".
Aditya Pajetta, a farmer from Haryana's Yamuna Nagar, carried a 15-kg plough on his shoulder while marching from Singhu border.
"Our fight is to save this plough. Generations have been involved in farming and it will be a pity if we cannot save their legacy. I have started marching from Singhu border and will carry it to the spot where the rally will conclude," he told PTI.
The cranes which were part of the rally had a makeshift podium on the top with a mattress at the front for people to sit.
The tricolour and flags of different farmer unions fluttered as marches began from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points, much ahead of the time decided for the tractor parade.
Security personnel tried to convince the protesters to stick to the designated route and time and maintain peace.
"We support the demands of farmers. We survive on what they produce and it is time we stand up for them. We salute their spirit," said Rani Devi, whose family was applying tilak to forehead of the participants.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points since November 28, demanding a repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops.
Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP (minimum support price) and do away with the "mandi" (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.