The Events Of Jan 26th 2021

 

On January 26th, India’s Republic Day, an estimated 300,000 tractors and an estimated 1.25 million people participated in the march.  The tractor rally and march began peacefully from each of the starting points.

 

Change in Plans

  • The original plan was to march to Delhi’s outer ring road from the different protest points.  Hundreds of thousands of people had joined on the premise that the march would go into the city.

  • A few days prior to the planned march, farmer union leaders came to an agreement with Delhi police and created a completely different plan.  The new plan limited the number of tractors “allowed” in the march and would no longer be coming into the heart of Delhi but would instead remain on the outskirts.  This major change taking place just a few days prior to a march that had been discussed for weeks had the potential to create discord and confusion. 

  • Many did not sleep through the night of the 25th in excitement and preparation for the long-awaited march into the capital.  For those that did sleep, on the morning of January 26th they awoke to the government approved routes being barricaded.  From Dr. Swaiman’s account of events the correct routes appeared to have had barricades and the incorrect routes were open.\

  • Majority of the protestors waited until the official start time, however there were some tractors and people that began their march towards Delhi prior to the official parade start time. There is mixed information but footage shows the police were directing tractors to the fort. 

 

Eye Witness Account: Shivam

Peaceful March

  • Tikri Border – Personal account of events as witnessed by Shivam (IG:Shivampagtil90).  The tractor parade was supposed to start at 9 am and it began on time.  The tractors were in one lane and people were walking alongside chanting slogans.  Shivam managed to get a ride on one of the tractors for a first hand experience.  About 1/1.5 hours later they reached the outskirts of Delhi, where they were received favorably by Delhi residents who came out to support the farmers  and were chanting slogans alongside them.  Around 12:30 pm they arrived at a point that was on the confirmed route, Nangloi, at which point the protest was supposed to take a right turn that would lead them back to their original starting point of Tikri.  This is where most of the crowd had gathered because they knew this was the closest they were going to get to the city but were actually still on the outskirts of West Delhi.  The reception the protestors received from the residents was like one of celebrities. They were welcomed and it was an electric atmosphere.  According to Shivam’s account all of the tractors were taking the correct turn to turn back to Tikri.  This is the point he got off the tractor because it was going to return to Tikri.  Shivam then stood in the crowd to take more videos and see the parade through.  

Unprovoked Police Assault with Tear Gas​

  • About 10-15 minutes later, Shivam heard a loud explosion.  About 10 seconds after that the crowd saw a huge cloud of smoke and about 15 seconds later the crowd started rubbing their eyes.  By the time the crowd realizes that it was tear gas, 5 or 6 tear gas shells had gone off.  The crowd dispersed in fear of a lathi charge which didn't happen because the tear gas was enough.  At this point in time, the protestors were not breaking barricades, there was a bridge between Delhi and turning point, they were not trying to cross.  The tear gas attack was completely unprovoked and not only were the protestors targeted, so were innocent Delhi residents who had come out to support the farmers.  

 

Official Routes Barricaded

  • Shivam heard reports from friends that the same thing was happening at the Singhu border protest.  He indicated that the night before the parade the Delhi police put barricades up around 1-2 am on the planned route at Singhu.  When the parade started the protestors first had to remove these barricades (which they did peacefully) so they could continue on the agreed upon route.  The police used this removal of the barricades as an excuse to act against the protestors.  The police tear gassed and lathi charged the people.  It was a preemptive move by the police to create a hostile situation where they could disturb the protest. 

 

Eye Witness Account: Dr. Swaiman

Disguised Troublemakers and Police causing Injuries

  • Tikri Border cont. - Listening to Dr. Swaiman’s video, he says that everything was going fine on the route (as did Shivam) until they got to Nangloi.  He confirmed that there were persons dressed as police officers but were not wearing name badges or identifications.   Similarly, there were people dressed as farmers/protestors.  Their intent was to cause mischief and have the situation implode, which it did.  Dr. Swaiman’s team treated all of the injured regardless of whether they were protestors or police.  His own team was attacked by police officers while they were treating other police officers.  When he was later treating the protestors, he asked them why they broke through the barricades and the response received was that even when they were trying to go on the correct roads tear gas was thrown at them.  The protestors were just following the tractor in front of them because they didn’t know the area, many had never been to Delhi before.  By Dr. Swaiman’s estimation a trap was set by unknown person/s and the protestors were caught in that trap. 


 

Police Dispel Peaceful Marches with Tear Gas

  • Singhu Border – The vast majority of the protestors marched on the planned route and returned back to the border without incident.  However, the tractors that had left early and had reached the Karnail bypass, were met by strong barricades, protestors asked the police to either remove them or let the farmers do it themselves.  The police then fired tear gas shells and lathi-charged the protestors, but they were unsuccessful in stopping the protestors from crossing the barricades.  Once the protestors had passed the barricades they were unaware of where to go, as many of them did not know the city well.  A consensus was reached to go to Red Fort.  When the Singhu protestors arrived at the Red Fort, the Gazipur protestors were there before them

  • Ghazipur Border – The scene started off same here as the other protest sites, videos  of people gathered to march peacefully.  Scenes of men and women chanting as they traveled on the march route.  This later turned violent as police fired tear gas and lathi-charged protestors.  Several police officers beat an elderly Sikh gentleman from behind leading to further escalation. 

 

Red Fort

  • No prior plan was made to go to the Red Fort and it was not planned by anyone in particular.  Question is, why did the protestors even go there to begin with?   They went because it was a symbolic place and represented something bigger to the protestors, it was where they could show the world that they were protesting against the laws.  The protestors did not go to Red Fort with the intent to cause trouble.  They went to a well-known landmark that they knew of in Delhi and they thought it would help raise further awareness to their plight. 

  • The Nishan Sahib and Kisaan Ekta Morcha flag was hoisted on an empty flagpole.  The Indian National flag was not removed, it continued to fly higher. 

  • There should have been a very high level security at Red Fort on India’s Republic Day but as you will see from this video protestors were easily able to enter the fort.

 

Confusion: No guidance, No Internet

  • In the NY Times article Mr. Rakesh Tikait had the best response on how protestors found themselves in “off-limit” areas of the city, “Mr. Rakesh Tikait said the farmers didn’t know the city well and they had simply lost their way.  “It’s not like their tractors have GPS,” he said.”. 

  • What also added to the confusion was the government shutting off the internet services, most protestors having to rely on those in front of them for direction.

  •  In spite of everything they were subjected to, the protestors still tried to help those in need along the way.  At the Red Fort, they in fact helped two lady police officers who were in distress.  At Singhu border, they offered water to the same police department that was shooting tear gas at them.  And the very same protestors protected an elderly police officer and led him to safety. 

 

Aftermath: False Accusations and Arrests

  • Many feared the events of January 26th had derailed the farmers protest but the Tiranga Tractor Rally of January 28 and Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait’s viral and emotional video breathed new life into the protests and it continues on strong.

  •  In the chaos of everything that happened and strong government reaction the following stats were given per an Amnesty International article dated February 9, 2021, “Farming groups say more than 100 people have gone missing since the 26 January tractor rally, as draconian laws like sedition and UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) have been used to clampdown on protesters. At least six senior citizens are among the 120 people arrested in connection with the violence that broke out in the capital during the rally on Republic Day, according to a list released by the Delhi police.”

  •  A lot of negative statements and media coverage have been made about the January 26th march, in spite of that, this huge event was a success.  A direct quote from an Amnesty International article  says it best, "A peaceful assembly does not lose its peaceful character due to sporadic violence or unlawful behaviours of some individuals. Where a small minority tries to turn a peaceful assembly into a violent one, police should ensure that those who are protesting peacefully are able to continue to do so, and not use the violent acts of a few as a pretext to restrict or impede the exercise of rights of a majority."

 

 

Our advice to you is:

  • Read Between and Beyond the Lines

  • Look deeper because the truth is in the details.

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