There was plenty of finger-pointing as farm union leaders rushed to distance themselves from the protestors engaging in clashes with police and rampaging around Red Fort on Tuesday, but several admitted that the violence could weaken their cause.
The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a defiant Punjab union which was the first to break from the agreed route, blamed “anti-social elements”.
“We strongly condemned the incident. It’s an act of anti-social elements. We never had any plan to go to the Red fort and stage any kind of protest over there. The aim of these anti-social elements seems to weaken the ongoing farmers’ movement,” said KMSC general secretary Sarvan Singh Pandher. “If our outfit would have planned to go to the Red fort, the key leaders would have led from the front. But we did not have any such plans. We had only planned to hold tractor parade on the outer ring road,” he added.
All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah, who is part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha leadership that has been negotiating with the government, blamed the KMSC as well as a "rogue criminal element" for betraying the farmers.
"We condemn such action. It is not that farmers are out of control. Some rogue criminal elements are causing the problem. There is a conspiracy to give a bad name to farmers," he told The Hindu, noting that protesting farmers have conducted a peaceful agitation for the last seven months since the three laws were initially brought in as ordinances.
The SKM noted that peaceful protests had been held in many parts of the country on Tuesday, including tractor parades in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar. Even in Delhi, the majority of tractors stuck to the agreed routes, while thousands of others were not even able to leave the protest sites.
"If you look all across the country, there may be over a crore people on the streets. There are a few hundred who are breaking rules here. The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee are not a main part of the movement," said Mr. Mollah. "Those farmers who are doing this are betrayers to the farmers' cause. Someone who is breaking the rules like this, causing disturbance, actually helps the government to win, and they cannot be called part of the movement...Putting up a flag at Red Fort was never the aim for farmers. We want to get the government to listen to our demands. This is not helpful for that aim," he added.
BKU-Tikait leader Rakesh Tikait, who led the group on the Ghazipur border blamed the prolonged struggle for more than six months, and the protests of more than two months on the borders of Delhi as a reason for the situation. He also blamed the Delhi Police for the farmers’ initial deviation from the agreed route, saying that because barricades were not placed at the right locations, tractors got lost and accidentally wandered into Delhi. “As a result, undesirable elements and some organizations got a chance and tried their best to disrupt this parade. BKU disassociates itself from those involved in this act,” he said, adding that BKU would work to identify the disruptive elements. “The farmers union has always believed in a peaceful movement. BKU never has and will not engage in any violent display or act affecting national symbols,” he said.
At the Shahjahanpur border, where the parade ran smoothly, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav initially posted a video pleading with protestors in the city not to tarnish the movement. Later in the evening, he said he would take responsibility. "Being a part of the protest, I feel ashamed of the way things proceeded and I take responsibility of it,” he told a television channel. "Violence impacts any kind of protest in a wrong way. Only if the movement goes peacefully, we will be able to win," he said.