Residents in the eastern and northern parts of Delhi experienced eye irritation and respiratory issues following an anti-riot drill conducted by the Delhi Police in the Yamuna Khadar area on Saturday evening.
The incident caused concern among residents and commuters on the Geeta Colony-Pusta Road in east Delhi, who were worried about a possible gas leak and expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of prior notification about the drill. However, the police suggested that a shift in wind direction might have caused irritants to spread into residential areas.
The Delhi Police are on high alert in anticipation of the upcoming farmers' march to the national capital. Approximately 200 farmer organisations are expected to participate in the protest, advocating for various demands, including legislation to ensure Minimum Support Price and pension benefits.
Reports indicate that the police conducted a tear gas drill in preparation for the farmers' march reaching Delhi's borders. Videos circulating on social media depicted officers lining up and deploying tear gas shells in an open area in northern Delhi. However, this exercise left local residents uncomfortable, with many reporting a burning sensation in their eyes. One resident told news agency ANI, "I feel a burning sensation in my eyes and nose. It seems like my eyes and nose are blocked."
Delhi Police on high alert
With the aim of avoiding a recurrence of the January 26, 2021 episode, during which protesting farmers clashed with law enforcement on the streets of the capital, the Delhi Police is making exhaustive preparations to prevent farmers from entering the city on Tuesday.
According to reports, the city's borders with Haryana are being sealed off using large containers, with cranes on standby to relocate these obstacles should farmers attempt to breach the boundary into Delhi. Similarly, Haryana has also installed cement barriers to prevent the entry of protesting farmers into the capital.
Police officers from Haryana and Punjab are utilising tractors to simulate the protests and rehearse their responses. A combined total of 40 rehearsals involving tractors have taken place thus far, with 10 in Haryana and 30 in Punjab.
According to intelligence reports, up to 20,000 farmers accompanied by 2,000 tractors from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka may attempt to enter Delhi the day after tomorrow. Law enforcement officials are concerned that anti-social elements could infiltrate the protest and disturb public order.
Delhi Police's efforts to avoid 26-Jan like situation
Additionally, the police have taken into account the possibility of farmers using various modes of transportation such as cars, motorcycles, the Metro, or buses to evade police surveillance. Some farmers may also arrive early and assemble outside the residences of VIPs, including the Prime Minister, ministers, and BJP leaders. Sources suggest that women and children may also participate in the demonstrations.
The Delhi Police is closely monitoring social media in anticipation of the upcoming protest. The thorough preparations are a response to the chaotic scenes witnessed on Delhi's roads during the 2020-21 farmers' agitation against three central laws. On January 26, 2021, farmers breached Delhi's borders, resulting in violent clashes. A group of protesters even reached the Red Fort and raised flags belonging to farmer unions from its ramparts. The clashes left hundreds injured and over 30 police vehicles damaged.