For two months, thousands of farmers have remained at Delhi's borders protesting against three recently passed farm laws, unable to reach a consensus with the Centre. While the protests had been peaceful for the most part, things took a violent turn on January 26 with agitators clashing violently with the Delhi Police.
According to officials, the farmers had reneged on the commitment made during talks between the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha and Delhi Police, changing their rally route and engaging in violence and vandalism.
Reportedly, the police have registered nearly two dozen cases of violation of lawful directions, rioting, damage to public property and assault on public servant with deadly weapons. They say that 86 police personnel were injured in violence across the city.
Shocking visuals from Tuesday showed individuals brandishing swords, careening across the road atop tractors as officials scrambled out of its way and even trying to plant flags on the lower ramparts of the Red Fort.
Many of the farm leaders have called for the protesters to remain peaceful. Leaders such as Yogendra Yadav and farm groups such as the Samyukta Kisan Morcha have distanced themselves from the violent protesters. Hitting out at "anti-social elements" the latter released a statement condemning the situation.
"We dissociate ourselves from all such elements that have violated our discipline. We appeal strongly to everyone to stick to the route and norms of the Parade, and not indulge in any violent action or anything that taints national symbols and dignity," the Indian Express quoted the statement as saying.
Rakesh Tikait of the Bharat Kisan Union however insists that it was a lack of knowledge rather than a desire to harm that had prompted many to move towards the Red Fort.
"Uneducated people were driving tractors, they didn't know the paths of Delhi. Administration told them the way towards Delhi. They went to Delhi and returned home. Some of them unknowingly deflected towards Red Fort. Police guided them to return," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI on Wednesday. He however came down sternly against those who had indulged in violence and unfurled flags at Red Fort, stating that they would have to "pay for their deeds".
As of Wednesday morning, many of the protesting farmers have returned to their original places at the Delhi borders. However, the situation in the national capital is far from normal. Visuals shared by ANI indicate that security has been heightened at the Red Fort as well as at the borders.
According to the Delhi Traffic Police, the Ghazipur Mandi, NH-9 and NH-24 have been closed for traffic movement as has been the route from Minto Road to Connaught Place. "People commuting from Delhi to Ghaziabad are advised to take Shahdara, Karkari Mor and DND," the Delhi Traffic Police was quoted as saying.
In the meantime, metro services too remain somewhat restricted, with the entry and exit gates of the Lal Quila metro station and the entry gates of Jama Masjid metro station remaining closed.
(With inputs from agencies)