A day after violence in Delhi , it was business as usual at the Singhu border with protesters speaking on stage one after the other but the crowd seemed less than usual and spirit lower than every day.
While the majority of the protesting farmers admitted that the violence shouldn’t have occurred, they believed a host of reasons led to how the events unfolded including blaming the government sending it’s ‘elements’ to infiltrate the protest and further inciting the already angry and frustrated youth of the movement. Lack of communication was another reason, they said.
Disagreement between Nihang Sikhs and volunteers trying to maintain peace at the protest site was also visible on Wednesday.
Pritam Singh Nihang (60) said he agreed with what happened on Tuesday because the original plan was to hoist the flag at the Red Fort. “If they agreed later to not go there, then it only means they bent in front of the government and we wouldn’t do that,” he said.
Also read: Police instructed not to fire at agitators
However, Nihang Sikhs’ leader Raja Raj Singh condemned the violence but blamed the farmers’ leaders for allegedly not leading the protest. “Yes, our group went to the Red Fort and broke barricades but that’s because they didn’t know who to follow. The leaders should have led the protest from the front so that no one deviated from the path. Our men got carried away when they were instigated,” he said.
Responding to the claim, stage management committee member Amrik Singh, Bharat Kisan Union district pradhan (Jalandhar), said leaders along with volunteers were at the front and when they realised that the situation was going out of control, they started calling people back to their respective protest sites. “For so many days, we have been saying from stage that there’s no plan to go to the Red Fort. What certain groups did was wrong. Our fight is for farming and nothing else,” he said.
Also read: Delhi Police detain 200 in connection with Republic Day violence
Mahant Jasbir Das Singh, who has been on hunger strike since December 13, said he also went to the Red Fort but doesn’t support the violence which took place. “I don’t know who led us to the monument but groups started going towards it so we did too. But when we reached, we unfurled the national flag, sang the national anthem and stepped out. A group of people, however, started creating ruckus and hoisted the Nishan Sahib which wasn’t right,” he said adding that subsequently other protesters got involved in the milieu because of heightened emotions.
“It was all planned and planted by government. How could a place like the Red Fort — an hour after Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves — not have enough security to stop people?” asked Sukhwinder Singh Barwa, a protester from Ropar, who had gone till Mukarba Chowk and returned after the group was asked by the leaders to do so.
Another protester Mehtab Singh (68) from Amritsar claimed that there were barricades on the route given by the Delhi police which led the protesters to take the other route at Mukarba Chowk. “When they didn’t allow us on the route which was given to us, that’s when people got angry and diverted,” he said.
Sukhwant Singh (34) from Mohali claimed that he did not know that they weren’t supposed to go to the Red Fort because that’s what they have believed since the announcement of the parade in December.
Chand Pehelwan, member of the Dahiya Khap constituted by 54 villages of Sonipat in Haryana, said the incident will have an impact on the participation from Haryana. “No one has left from here yet but for us, national flag comes first even as repealing of laws is important. There were provocative speeches on the evening of January 25 and what happened on the Republic Day shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
While some of the protesters from Punjab agreed that farmer leaders will have to work hard to keep the protest going, many seemed resolute that they’ll continue till the laws are repealed. “I am not with any leader and I’ve been here for nearly two months now and will continue to stay,” said Mr. Sukhwinder from Ropar.