West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday (January 26) blamed the Narendra Modi-led central government for its "insensitive attitude and indifference" after a tractor march meant to highlight farmers' demands dissolved into anarchy on the streets of the national capital Delhi today, on Republic Day.
Hordes of rampaging protesters were seen breaking through barriers, fighting with the police, overturning vehicles and hoisting a religious flag from the rampart of Red Fort, a privilege reserved for India's tricolour.
In a two-part composed in reaction to the "painful developments" that unfolded in the streets of Delhi, Mamata said that she was "deeply disturbed" and blamed the central government for the situation.
"Deeply disturbed by worrying & painful developments that have unfolded on the streets of Delhi. Centre's insensitive attitude and indifference towards our farmer brothers & sisters has to be blamed for this situation," Mamata posted from her official Twitter handle.
The West Bengal chief minister added, from her account on the microblogging website, that the Centre should engage with farmers and repeal the 'draconian' farm laws.
"First, these laws were passed without taking farmers in confidence. And then despite protests across India & farmers camping near Delhi for last 2 months, they've been extremely casual in dealing with them. Centre should engage with the farmers & repeal the draconian laws," she wrote.
Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police in multiple places, leading to chaos in well known landmarks of Delhi and suburbs, amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the day, leaving the farmers' two-month peaceful movement in tatters.
In a Republic Day like no other, farmers atop tractors, on motorcycles and some on horses, broke barricades to enter the city at least two hours before they were supposed to start the tractor march at noon sanctioned by authorities. Steel and concrete barriers were broken and trailer trucks overturned as pitched battles broke out in several parts of the city.
Farmer leaders, who have been spearheading the protest at the national capital's border points to demand a repeal of the farm laws, distanced themselves from the protests that had taken such an unseemly turn and threatened to shift public sympathy from their movement.
As the sun set, sporadic incidents of violence continued and restless crowds roamed the streets in many places. Some groups of farmers began the journey to their respective sit-in sites at Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, but thousands stayed on.
As the police used teargas shells to disperse the restive crowds in some places, hundreds of farmers in ITO were seen chasing them with sticks and ramming their tractors into parked buses. A protester died after his tractor overturned.
ITO resembled a war zone with a car being vandalised by angry protesters and shells, bricks and stones littering the wide streets, testimony to the fact that the farmer movement that had been peaceful for two months was no longer so.
The entry and exit gates of more than 10 metro stations in central and north Delhi were temporarily closed following the trouble.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points, including Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, since November 28, demanding a complete repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops.
(With inputs from agencies)