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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Capital chaos dominates talk at subdued protest site, many admit fault but say unfair to discredit movement

In the absence of a robust machinery to convey decisions taken by the joint coordination committee leading the protests, the farmers have to rely on announcements made from the stage, and word of mouth.

By: Express News Service Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi |
Updated: January 28, 2021 1:31:31 pm
Police issue notices to farm leaders to join probe, they refuseThe Delhi Police Crime Branch is learnt to have approached several farm leaders over the phone asking them to join the investigation. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

Singhu on Wednesday appeared a little subdued and a lot emptier, its usual exuberance replaced by a sense of unease, a day after the violence during the tractor rally in Delhi.

The crowd thinned in the area that overflowed with protesters till Republic Day as many who had turned up for the tractor march started their return journey.

A 15-member contingent from Amritsar, which had arrived at Singhu on January 20, was among those that chose to leave. “All us belong to one family. We had specially come for the march. Our decision to return has nothing to do with what happened on Tuesday,” said Sakattar Singh, steering the tractor-trolley. As the tractor made its way out of the area, an elderly Sikh farmer came running behind the tractor, appealing them to return soon. “We will babaji,” Sakattar nodded.

As Delhi Police fortified entry points to the city, a fresh batch of concrete blocks left the lane leading to the protest site considerably narrower.

Across the protest site, the sequence of events that unfolded on Tuesday dominated the chatter. And the common thread that bound them was the consensus that protesters were unfairly stopped from entering the city and forced to make a U-turn from peripheral areas.

“All along we were told we will take the Ring Road. Then why did police put barricades? Don’t we have any right to enter the country’s capital?” said Sandeep Singh, a resident of Haryana’s Kaithal.

Said Anand Jagnan, a resident of Panipat, “Many of us were told about the route late on Monday. Time was so less that it could not be conveyed to a large section.”

In the absence of a robust machinery to convey decisions taken by the joint coordination committee leading the protests, the farmers have to rely on announcements made from the stage, and word of mouth.

In some cases, minivans fitted with microphones are deployed to make announcements while some unions also send messengers on bicycles.

Many voices betrayed a sense of unease over the act “by a section of protesters” to barge into Red Fort and unfurl the panthic flag of Sikhism. Many denounced the act, but added that the relentless focus on “the act of a few was aimed at sullying the entire movement”.

“We spent months on the railway tracks of Punjab. No one bothered. We have spent over two months here, everyday people are dying, but they are making it look like we are all extremists. No one is showing we were also showered with petals in many places,” said Harjinder Singh from Patiala, who said he reached Red Fort but did not enter.

Participants of the march returned to the site through the night till early Wednesday morning. The Delhi government’s langar sewa remained suspended due to “vandalism” and will resume soon, AAP MLA Raghav Chadha said.

Gagandeep Singh from Kaithal said farmers had no intention of indulging in vandalism. “Lakhs of us have been camping here. There has not been one act of violence.”

The farmers unions have claimed that unruly elements infiltrated the march, triggering confusion and chaos, a narrative echoed by protesters on the ground.

“The mob does not have any definite shape. When the floodgates open, water does not always flow in accordance with the set course of the river. It often leads to a deluge,” said Jagnan, who runs a dairy trade in Panipat and supplies milk to protesters on a daily basis.

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