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Farmer Protest: What led the peaceful protest to turn violent?

Indian farmers have been peacefully protesting for months on the outskirts of the country’s capital. But on 26th January, in an unprecedented turn of events, farmers broke through police barricades and entered the heart of the City, Red Fort, to show their strong condemnation against the new farm bill. The protest turned chaotic and violent, killing one farmer and injuring numerous security personals and protestors.

But why does the peaceful protest lashed out into chaos? What will be the outcome of this heated moment on the farm bill?

The violence busted out of peaceful protest

India is an agricultural-based country where more than half of the workforce depends upon agriculture for their livelihood. Despite being this significant sector, the agricultural sector contributes only 18% to the country’s GDP. The condition on marginal and small-scale farmers are aggravating because of droughts, floods, and a shortage of amble inputs. And after battling all these hurdles, when farmers can grow some crop, the market doesn’t offer them a sustainable crop price.

To tackle the worsening condition of farmers in India, the government came up with three significant reforms by the ‘farm bills.’ On the other hand, the farmers say the bill will destroy the government market places (APMC), where they can get a reasonable rate for their outputs.

To show their objection against the bill, farmers all around the country, especially from Punjab and Haryana, started protesting soon after the introduction of the bills. Beginning with a few people, the protest has grown huge. Since late November, tens of thousands of Indian farmers were camping on the outskirts of Delhi, the country’s capital.

The protest has become the largest farmer’s protest that India has seen since independence. The peaceful protest has been continuing for about two months. Till now, more than 70 farmers have died in the protest. The most apparent reason for the deaths in the cold weather and heart attacks amongst the elderly.

Why the protest lashed out on 26th January?

26th January is India’s republic day; every year, a massive parade is laid out in the country’s capital. The parade is carried out in front of all the leaders, including the presidents, prime minister, etc. Country’s armed forces show cast their latest weapons, tableau from every part of India, representing its cultural diversity is presented in the parade.

Farmer leaders urged the government to let them participate in the republic day parade in the form of a ‘tractor rally,’ and permission was granted to the farmers on the condition that it would not disturb the Republic Day celebrations. Caravans of tractors, hundreds of thousands of farmers partake into the capital ahead of the celebration, showing their demur on the new farm bills.

For the rally, farmers were allotted a specific route, which was largely confined to the outskirts of Delhi. But despite the agreement, a small section of the protest converged to the historic Red Fort. Breaching the security, the mob turned violent. Very disturbing images of police officers jumping into a pit for escaping the agitated farmers depicts the picture of the angry protestors.

Clashing with the police, protesters reached their destination, where they protested and hoisted their flag alongside India’s national flag. Another section of the protestors broke through police barricades to reach the country’s parliament in central Delhi.

To control the raging protestors, police fired tear gases. In the clash, one farmer died in an accident as his tractor flipped. To NDTV, one protestor said, “We came here to deliver a message to the Modi government; our job is done. We will go back now.” FIR against dozens of farmer leaders is being filed, and more than 300 farmers are detained.

Aftermaths of the violence

So far, peaceful protests of farmers had support from people around the world. Almost every farmer union of India was part of this massive protest. But as violence stepped in, the ties of unity are weakening. Two farmer unions, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and Bharatiya Kisan Union, announced the withdrawal from the protest because of Republic Day’s violence.

Experts believe that more farmer unions will distance themselves from the protest in the near future. By the nightfall, Red Fort was in silence again. The hoisted flag was removed. Still a small number of protestors remained outside the Fort, chanting slogans against the farm bill.

Saddened by the violence, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha issued a statement saying, “We thank farmers for the unprecedented participation in today’s Farmers Republic Day Parade. We also condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts. Despite all our efforts, some organizations and individuals have violated the route and indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We have always held that peace is our biggest strength and that any violation would hurt the movement.”