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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Violence erupts first time in Singhu: cops watching, ‘locals’ target farmers

In full view of police who kept watching, an estimated group of 200 got past three layers of security barricades and damaged tents and shelters while clashing with farm protesters.

Written by Ashna Butani , Jignasa Sinha , Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi |
Updated: January 30, 2021 8:13:38 am
Violence erupts first time in Singhu: cops watching, ‘locals’ target farmersPolice pin down a farmer, who allegedly attacked Police SHO (Alipur) Pradeep Paliwal, during clashes between people claiming to be local villagers and farmers at the Singhu Border in New Delhi, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (PTI Photo)

For the first time since November 26, when the sit-in started there, violence erupted at the farm protest site in Singhu.

In full view of police who kept watching, an estimated group of 200 got past three layers of security barricades Friday, claimed that the farmers’ agitation had affected their livelihood, and damaged tents and shelters while clashing with farm protesters.

The farmers alleged that they were attacked at the behest of the BJP to disrupt the protest against the Centre’s new farm laws. One of those in the group that reached the site said he was the husband of a BJP councillor from a village nearby.

With both sides throwing stones at each other, Delhi Police later said that 44 people, including a 22-year-old man who allegedly attacked a sub-inspector with a sword, were arrested. Sources told The Indian Express that all those arrested were farm protesters.

Around noon, the group of men gathered near GTB Memorial at the Delhi-Haryana border and raised slogans, asking protesters to vacate the area and saying they would not tolerate any insult to the Tricolour in a reference to the violence on Republic Day. Police said they were from nearby villages of Singhu, Narela, Bawana, Alipur and Kundli.

Within an hour, the group had crossed the barricades and started arguing with farmers, demanding that the agitation be wound up and the road cleared. The argument spiralled into violence before police resorted to teargas and lathi charge to bring the situation under control.

Aman Dabas, the husband of BJP councillor from Put Khurd village, Anju Devi, was part of the group, and said that he and 10 others from the village had gone to the protest site as they were “unhappy and angry” over the violence at Red Fort on Republic Day. “There were people from other villages, too,” he said, adding that he was a BJP member but does not hold any post.

Asked why the group was allowed to get so close to the last barricade, a senior police officer said the men “wanted to hold talks and were allowed to move forward”.

Security was heightened at Singhu Border in New Delhi, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

Delhi Police said the SHO of Alipur police station, Pradeep Kumar, “sustained grievous sword injuries” when he was attacked by a farm protester, and five other police personnel were also injured. “Accused Ranjeet Singh, 22, has been arrested from the spot and other 43 persons have also been arrested,” it said in a statement.

Delhi Police tweeted a photo of a man raising a sword, with police personnel in the frame, and the caption: “SHO Alipur, Delhi intervenes between rioting protesters (MKSC faction) and local Singhu villagers, who had gone to register their protest against the happenings on Republic Day-2021 and continued loss of ordinary livelihoods for over two months.”

Asked why the situation was allowed to escalate, the senior officer said: “We took action when the two parties clashed with each other.”

The BJP’s Delhi unit said the party had not staged any protest officially. “What happened on January 26 is a matter of shame and there is anger among people. People have staged protests at several places because police were attacked and the national flag insulted. Maybe, a worker could be seen with people who are protesting,” said Naveen Kumar, head of the unit’s media department.

At Singhu, farm protester Parabjeet Singh, 23, said he was near a langar tent when he was hit by a stone on the head.

“I was trying to protect others while taking videos of the scene. I was hit by a big stone and started bleeding,” he said.

Chamkaul Singh, a 42-year-old farmer, said: “They told us we have insulted the national flag. We told them that we too are citizens of India. They got violent and started pelting stones. Around 10 farmers have injuries.”

Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), claimed that “the BJP, in a premeditated manner, sent goons who were able to breach the police force”.

Minutes before the clash, AAP minister Satyendar Jain and Delhi Jal Board vice-chairperson Raghav Chadha were present at the spot and alleged that police were not allowing them to bring water tankers to the protesting farmers.

The group of men said they had held a meeting of residents from nearby villages and decided to stage a protest against the farmers. Among them was Amit Khatri (30) whose work involves transportation of industrial material. “We came to ask the farmers to leave because it is affecting our business. I used to pick up shipments from Singhu. But now, while I have to continue paying my driver Rs 15,000 a month, I have not made any profits ever since the protests started,” he said.

Khatri said he was not affiliated to any party but supported the BJP and lives in Singhola village, which is less than 2 km from the border. His cousin Amit Dagar (32) said: “We were initially supporting them, but they insulted the Tricolour… that is not acceptable.”

In the statement, Delhi Police said: “Around 1.30 pm, about 200 local villagers approached near the GTB Memorial towards Singhu. They went to meet the leaders of the KMSC faction to press for the local demand that the protesters vacate the said space and open the border, and said that they have been providing all…help to protesters for the last two months but now their livelihood is getting affected. They came yesterday also with the same request.”

Police said: “This was resisted by some farmers and pushing-pulling of the police barricades kept to secure the langar tents ensued. During this stone pelting started…”

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