Farmers’ unions and the Delhi police fine-tuned plans for the tractor parades on three routes on Republic Day, with the protesters permitted to enter the capital for about 100 km but restricted to the border areas.
After five to six marathon meetings with farmer unions that wanted to carry out a peaceful rally in the capital on Republic Day, Special Commissioner of Police Intelligence Deependra Pathak said the Delhi police had come to an in-principle understanding, which will be “a win-win situation for all”.
After explaining to farmers the type of arrangements put in place to organise the parade on Rajpath, it was agreed to allow three circular routes from Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri borders, he said.
The tractor parades will enter Delhi but remain in areas near the border from the three entry points. Each of the routes planned are approximately 60 km long and in total about 100 km is within the territory of the National Capital. Farmers will be allowed to enter the city only after the completion of the official Republic Day parade, he added.
“There will be a high level of security for the rally to ensure that no anti-social elements try to disturb the peace. We will work together with the farmers to create a secure environment for the rally,” Mr. Pathak said.
“We have faith and trust that the farmers will exit the route from where they entered and will not try to create any confusion within the Capital,” he added.
Apart from tens of thousands of protesters from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, who have been camped on Delhi’s borders for the last two months, small contingents of farmers are streaming in from other parts of the country, as distant as Kerala, Gujarat and Odisha, to join the Republic Day parades.
“All organisations have approved this route plan. We will ensure that the parade is carried out peacefully in cooperation with the police. No one will be allowed to bring drugs or alcohol to the parade,” said Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary of one faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, speaking at a late evening press conference at the Singhu border.
“There will be no limit on the number of tractors which will be allowed to enter Delhi,” said Harjeet Singh Ravi of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee, adding that the cars of the farm union leaders will form the frontline of the parade.
“The police themselves have estimated that there will be one lakh tractors and if they move at the rate of one kilometre in 15 minutes, then it could take as long as 48 hours for the last tractors to reach the end,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha. He explained that Monday would be spent in intense preparation, creating tableaux and training thousands of volunteers and drivers to facilitate smooth and peaceful movement.
“We have given out the slogan, ‘If it is peaceful, we win; if it is violent, Modi wins’. Our credibility is at stake. The police prepare for one month for the Republic Day parade [on Rajpath]. We will have just a few days to do the same thing,” he added.