India: Farmers’ Protest Turns Deadly After Tractor Overturns

Farmers listen to a speaker during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms, at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on January 27, 2021. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP) (Photo by MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images)
MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

Farmers’ protests in the Indian national capital, Delhi, turned deadly Tuesday after a farmer turned over his tractor and died.

“A protesting farmer died after his tractor overturned at Central Delhi’s ITO [junction] during the farmers’ tractor parade on Tuesday,” police in the Indian national capital said on January 26, according to the Times of India.

“The man died as his tractor overturned at ITO where many farmers participating in the parade had reached from the Ghazipur border after taking a detour of the pre-agreed route for the march [sic],” a senior Delhi police officer said.

“The man was driving the tractor and he came under the vehicle as it overturned,” police added.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped out on the outskirts of Delhi since November to protest recently passed agricultural reforms.

A parade was scheduled in the national capital Tuesday in honor of India’s Republic Day, which commemorates India’s adoption of its constitution on January 26, 1950. Delhi police had instructed the farmers that they were allowed to continue their protests in Delhi suburbs Tuesday only after the annual Republic Day parade concluded. Police provided the farmers with specific routes for them to use Tuesday that were largely confined to the capital’s outskirts. Thousands of farmers defied official requests Tuesday morning, however, diverging from their designated march routes to enter Delhi.

“[N]umerous farmers rode tractors, motorbikes, horses, and even cranes to cross the national capital’s borders into the city,” the Times of India reported.

“At ITO [junction], the protesters broke police barricade[s], vandalized DTC [Delhi Transport Corporation] buses parked in the middle of the road as barricades, and clashed with security personnel in front of the Police headquarters. Protesters also broke barricades at Karnal bypass and Tikri border,” according to the newspaper.

Delhi police were greatly outnumbered by the thousands of farmers and used tear gas in a largely futile effort to push the mob back. At least 83 police officers were injured in the riot, with many sustaining serious wounds, according to NDTV.

“[H]undreds of protesters could be seen chasing police personnel with sticks and ramming their tractors into the buses parked by police,” the Times of India relayed on Tuesday, adding that, “Some farmers armed with swords clash[ed] with police.”

“Farmers chase[ed] police with their tractors, damaging more DTC buses near ITO” as police desperately trying to prevent them from moving towards Delhi’s historic Red Fort, located at the heart of the city. By noon, hundreds of farmers “riding tractors, bikes, and cars” managed to breach the fortress’s gates. A number of men clambered onto the fortress’s walls and domes, and some hoisted “farmer union flags and [a] saffron pennant with a Sikh religious symbols” alongside the Indian national flag on the fort’s first rampart, according to the Times of India.

The majority of the farmers gathered near Delhi since November have traveled from the Sikh-dominated Indian state of Punjab, which borders the capital region. Another Indian state with a notable Sikh population, Haryana, has sent a large number of farmers to participate in the rallies as well. The farmers are protesting three agricultural reforms passed by the Indian Congress in September that they say undermine their traditional farm price protections.

“The farmers, who form a powerful political constituency, fear the laws passed in September could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers,” NDTV reported on December 4.

“Farm groups say the government is trying to end a decades-old policy of providing them with an assured minimum price for producing staples, such as wheat and rice,” the Indian news outlet added.


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