close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
AFP
January 27, 2021

India's Republic Day turned into black day: Sikh flag planted on Red Fort

Top Story

AFP
January 27, 2021

India's Republic Day turned into black day: Sikh flag planted on Red Fort

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indian farmers fought pitched battles with police across New Delhi on Tuesday, as they took protests against agriculture reforms into the capital during a giant Republic Day military parade.

Police laid on one of their biggest security operations in years in a bid to keep demonstrators away from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government and military leaders. However, after barging through barricades on main roads into the city, convoys of farmers on tractors took over Delhi landmarks and debris-strewn streets were left in clouds of tear gas.

One farmer was killed in what police said was an accident after his tractor overturned. Police said they suffered “many” casualties but gave no figures. At the 400-year-old Red Fort, farmers put up their own emblem on the flagpole where India’s tricolour normally flies on national days. They were chased out by security forces.

It was earlier reported that Khalistan flag was hoisted atop the Red Fort. However, upon investigation, it was found to be the ‘Nishan Sahib’, which bears a close resemblance to the Khalistan flag but has a very different symbolic meaning.

Indian actor and activist, Deep Sidhu, who has been protesting for farmers’ rights, posted a video on Facebook, clarifying that only the Nishan Sahib was hoisted on the fort. “We have only hoisted the Nishan Sahib flag on the Red Fort while exercising our democratic right to protest. The flag was hoisted as a sign of unity in diversity,” he said.

Hundreds fought police outside the Delhi police headquarters. All over the city, security forces fired tear gas and staged baton charges. But the farmers also laid into police with branches and metal bars and hijacked buses that had been used to block their convoys.

As night fell, authorities cut internet and phone links in the areas on the edge of Delhi where the farmers have set up their camps. The US Embassy released a “security alert” warning American nationals to avoid trouble zones.

Two months of protests against agricultural laws that deregulated produce markets have turned into the biggest challenge faced by Modi’s Hindu nationalist government since it came to power six years ago. The government had opposed the rally saying it would be a “national embarrassment” on the Republic Day.

Police allowed the demonstration if farmers waited until after the military parade and kept to a route away from central Delhi. But the security was breached while Modi and other dignitaries watched tanks and troops pass along the Rajpath Boulevard while newly acquired Rafale fighter jets flew overhead.

Modi waved to crowds and was driven back to his residence barely 30 minutes before the fleets of tractors took over the centre. Tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of the capital since November, protesting against the new laws which the government says will boost rural incomes.

Union leaders say the legislation will give Indian conglomerates control of the agriculture industry — the bedrock of economy — and end guaranteed prices for most farm produce. “We are going to show the government that we mean business,” said protester Nareesh Singh as he revved up his tractor and drove into a cloud of tear gas.

Satnam Singh Pannu, head of one of the main farmer committees, said the protesters had enough supplies to keep their Delhi camps going for a year if necessary, and that there was “massive popular support” for the campaign. On one road, people on rooftops and threw petals on the tractor convoys. Elsewhere people cheered and applauded as the farmers went past waving Indian flags and blowing horns.

Police manned barricades at intersections around the center of the city while soldiers with machine guns patrolled on many metro trains. The leaders said the police had provoked the farmers into violence. In a statement, police replied that they had to act after the farmers broke the conditions for the rally and took “the path of violence and destruction”.

“When you attack a peaceful protest, then difficulties for the government will surely increase,” union leader Kawalpreet Singh Pannu told AFP. “This won’t stop here. Our movement and message have only become stronger.” He said a new protest would be held on February 1 outside parliament when the government announces its budget.

The government says the farmers have been manipulated by opposition parties which have largely backed the rural campaign. Ten rounds of talks between farm unions and ministers have failed to break the deadlock.

The farmers have demanded the government repeal the laws, but the administration has only offered to delay implementation for 18 months. Smaller farmer demonstrations were held in Mumbai and Bangalore and in the rural state of Haryana.

Meanwhile, Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and the world over observed India’s Republic Day as Black Day on Tuesday to send a loud and clear message to the world and India that Kashmiris rejected illegal occupation of their land by India and were struggling to secure their right to self-determination.

The call for observance of the Black Day was given by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat forum and other Hurriyat leaders and organizations. The day was marked by a complete strike and shutdown in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and anti-India demonstrations and rallies in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan and world capitals. All shops and business establishments were closed while traffic stayed off the road.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Tuesday said in India’s so-called democracy, secularism was on decline with black law being imposed aimed at targeting minorities. “Instead of strengthening democracy, more black laws are being implemented across India as Hindutva ideology emerges stronger with each passing day,” he said in a statement.

Qureshi said January 26 was observed as Black Day all over the world in protest against the heinous policies of Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) government. He said the amendments to the constitution deprived Kashmiris of their identity.

“Kashmiris in India and across the globe are marking the Black Day because India has taken away their basic constitutional rights,” he said. Qureshi said foreign media and international human rights organizations had started exposing the atrocities of Indian security forces in IOJ&K.

He said India’s economy was further deteriorating due to negative policies of the BJP government. He said minorities in today’s India felt insecure, particularly Muslims, Bengalis and Dalits.