- GS-2: Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Republic Day Violence
Context: The Delhi Police has detained 200 people in connection with the violence during the Republic Day tractor rally. More than 300 policemen were injured in the violence which took place mostly in and around Red Fort.
What exactly happened?
- Background of incident: For nearly two month farmers primarily from Punjab had been camping on the outskirts of New Delhi protesting against the new farm laws. Multiple rounds of negotiations between the government and the farmers’ unions have failed.
- Tractor Rally Planned: Protesting farmers had planned for tractor rally towards New Delhi on Republic day so as to express their demands and make their voices heard. It was a historic parade by lakhs of farmers and tractors.
- Rally Took Violent Turn: While the tractor rally initially began peacefully, a section of protesters broke through police barricades and entered parts of the national capital not permitted for their protest. Clashes between the police and protesters took place at various places that left nearly 400 police personnel injured.
- Deviation from agreed path & time: The path taken by unruly section reportedly deviated from the route that farmers’ unions had agreed upon in their talks with the Delhi Police. Also, farmers decided to enter the capital ahead of the permitted time, resulting in police launching tear gas and baton attacks on them.
- Religious Flag at Red Fort: Defying elaborate security arrangements in place for the Republic Day military parade, the protesters entered the Red Fort, where the predominantly Sikh farmers also installed a religious flag.
- Law and Order Control measures: The massive protests forced the shutting down of several metro stations, while internet services were suspended in many areas of the capital and its adjoining areas. Police lathicharged and used tear gas to control the situation by night.
- Cases registered: The police have filed FIRs naming a number of senior farm leaders who had held talks with the government and who signed an undertaking promising to follow the conditions set for the parades.
Critical Analysis of the incident
- Fatigued Agitators: The chances of fatigued agitators breaking loose were high as were the possibilities of vested interests triggering violence. Therefore, the leaders of protests should have been more conscious about this.
- Massive Protest badly coordinated by farm leadership: The leadership, itself an association of disparate individuals and organisations, should have been more realistic about its capacity to manage such a gathering.
- Violent deviation by a handful: The chaos and mindless violence unleashed on the national capital by a section of protesting farmers on Republic Day were abhorrent. It is plausible that agents provocateurs infiltrated the farmers’ march and derailed the entire plan leading to violence.
- Restraint by Police: In the end, unruly elements took over the streets of Delhi. They broke barricades, thrashed, and tried to mow down police personnel. The police resorted to lathi charge and used tear gas, but, given the circumstances, showed restraint by not going for firing & other harsh measures.
- Change in plans for protesting farmers: Two farmer unions withdraw from agitation against farm laws over R-Day violence. The unions have cancelled their plans to march to Parliament on February 1, when the Union Budget will be presented, but have vowed to continue their agitation in a peaceful manner.
- Can alter negotiations with government: The violence that was unleashed during tractor rally has brought disrepute to the agitating farmers and there are efforts made to discredit their movement & demands. In due course of time, it can alter the way government engages with protesting farmers for negotiation.
- Proper Investigation: The Delhi police must investigate and hold to account individuals and groups responsible for the violence. Farmer leaders have the unenviable task of cooperating with the police in the investigation.
- Preventing Communal Overtones: False friends and real enemies of the agitators have painted them with a communal brush (hoisting of religious flag). Bringing the culprits to book is essential not only to salvage the reputation of an agitation that had remained largely peaceful for nearly two months but also to nip in the bud a dangerous communal slant before it slips out of control.
- Maximalist position of protestors needs change: The agitators want the laws to go lock, stock, and barrel but their maximalist approach is unhelpful. They must discontinue the protest for now and disperse, while reserving the option of restarting it later. They should consider options short of a complete repeal of the laws.
- Centre must continue with negotiations: The Centre must consider more concessions, including the suspension of the laws until a broader agreement can be arrived at. It must make more efforts to allay the fears of those most affected by these reforms.
The Centre has said it would continue to engage the protesters in negotiations. The offer of the government to keep in abeyance for up to 18 months the three controversial farm laws that are at the heart of the current face-off remains an opportunity for the leaders to seek a negotiated settlement
Connecting the dots: