To return or not? This has been a crucial question for the farmers who are participating in the Republic Day tractor march throughout India’s capital New Delhi. While the majority of farmers want to set-up their camps inside Delhi, after waiting for two months at its borders, some of the organisations want them to return to the borders after completing the tractor parade. The farmers have defied the appeal by pro-compromise leaders by occupying all crucial parts, including the iconic Red Fort.
At Delhi’s Singhu border, more than 5,000 farmers from Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee breached the barricades of the Delhi Police at the wee hours of Tuesday, January 26th. The police charged them with batons and lobbed teargas shells targeting the unarmed farmers, yet the farmers succeeded in surmounting the barricades. At Tikri border, thousands of farmers breached the barriers and entered Delhi at 9am, while the police and the state looked disarrayed. Farmers breached the Ghazipur border thousands of tractors broke through police barricades and started rallying towards the heart of New Delhi’s power centre.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM)—an umbrella of 41 farmer organisations—has delinked itself from the forceful entry by the farmers who are supported by the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee. According to the SKM, the farmers’ Republic Day tractor march must stick to the routes agreed upon after discussion with the Delhi Police. The majority of the farmers are defying such diktats and reaching out to all corners of the capital. They plan to reach India Gate, near the Parliament and lay siege of the capital until the government repeals the contentious farm laws.
The Delhi Police expected the farmers to show obeisance and only start their rally at noon, after the state’s official Republic Day celebrations, attended by President Ramnath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is over. But the majority of the farmers seized the opportunity and began breaching Delhi’s barricades since the early morning. Places like Singhu, Najafgarh, Tikri and Ghazipur turned into battle zones, as a feral police force unleashed macabre atrocities to resist the farmers’ Republic Day tractor march. The battle continues till noon, as many farmer groups keep entering Delhi riding their tractors, braving batons, teargas shells and media vilification alike.
As the news of farmers’ Republic Day tractor march blistered virally throughout the country, the people’s attention was drawn to this unprecedented event than the show of military hardware as a part of Modi’s self-aggrandizement. Yet, most of the “national” media houses focused on the official parade, describing in details the features and attributes of each weaponry and aircraft displayed, ignoring the roar of the farmers’ marching on their tractors a few kilometres away. Later when they couldn’t ignore the march, they started bootlegging the old wine of “law and order” violation to demonise the protesters. Their cribbing is mocked by the farmers who don’t care what the elites and the middle-class think about them.
Collectively more than a million farmers have joined the Republic Day tractor march and most of them are eager to camp in Delhi’s interior to power-up their months-long movement, which the Modi regime has been trying to suppress using a plethora of tactics. The Delhi Police began using the “Khalistan”, Pakistan and “Maoist” dog whistles to demonise the protesters and their valiant struggle. But the allegations didn’t pay any return, as thousands upon thousands of poor working-class people came outside their houses to cheer the protesters. Throughout Delhi, the poor people are standing in solidarity with the farmers.
As the Khalsa flag—Nishan Sahib—was unfurled at Red Fort after the Republic Day tractor march reached the iconic building that epitomises power and authority, it also became an iconic moment in the history of Sikh religion as, since its foundation 500 years ago, it has been fighting against Delhi’s oppression under various shades of rulers. Now that the farmers have occupied the city, now that the Modi regime is pushed to the walls, it’s to be seen whether the corporate-state-media nexus wins against the valiant farmers or a new history is created by these oppressed people.
The farmers’ Republic Day tractor march has ensured that January 26th is remembered more than being a banal day when the state boasts its prowess. It must live in history and the minds of the people as the first successful attempt by the Indian farmers to assert their right to a Republic that will serve the interests of its toiling masses, its farmers and workers, rather than a handful of big corporate honchos and feudal landlords. Modi’s Republic is breached by the poor Indian people’s Republic on January 26th 2021, and these people shall not retreat, that’s the mood in Delhi’s air.