Farmers protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws have received permission to hold a tractor rally on Republic Day. The Delhi Police, however, has issued a series of restrictions, saying permission was given only to show respect for the farmers’ demand. “Protesting farmers can enter Delhi but can’t disturb the Republic Day parade,” the Delhi Police said this evening, declaring that the tractor rally will begin after the day’s traditional big parade on Rajpath, which terminates at the iconic Red Fort close to noon.
The farmers — who have been sitting on protest outside the borders of Delhi for nearly two months — will have to enter the city to access the Ring Road. The green signal came after a series of meetings — including some with the farmers, who have promised a peaceful rally that will move along a road encircling the city.
The farmers, the police said, can enter Delhi for few kilometers and then exit at designation spots. While the number of participating tractors is yet to be decided, the route has been fixed in such a way that it can be protected
Indicating that stringent security will be provided for the rally, the Delhi Police said their personnel, who will be posted for Republic Day parade, will have to be ready for further deployment on short notice.
The government has opposed the rally on the Republic Day, saying it would be an “embarrassment for the nation” because of the timing. The Supreme Court, where it appealed, however left the decision to the Delhi Police, saying it was a matter of “law and order”.
The court had earlier upheld the farmers’ constitutional right to hold a peaceful protest.
Farmers, who have been protesting at the Singhu and other borders in Delhi for two months, had decided to hold the tractor rally after several rounds of negotiations with Centre had failed to resolve the issue. The date – January 26 – was picked to mark the completion of two months for the “Delhi Chalo” protest, which started on November 26.
Earlier this week, the farmers had rejected the government’s offer of putting the laws on hold for 18 months, demanding a complete repeal. They have also rejected the committee named by the Supreme Court, saying all its members are pro-government. One of the committee members have already resigned.
The farmers say the new laws will shrink their income and leave them open to exploitation by big corporates. They have also demanded a new law to guarantee the continuation of the Minimum Support Prices currently offered by the government, which they fear will be discontinued after a point.
The government has made it clear that it would not repeal the laws or enact legislation on the MSP, offering instead a written guarantee. The Centre has said the three laws are a major reform in the farm sector and will help farmers increase their income by allowing them to sell at competitive prices to corporates and removing middlemen.
Earlier this month, the farm laws were put on hold for at least two months by the Supreme Court, which named a special committee discusses the issue with all sides. The farmers have not accepted the committee, saying all four of its members are pro-government. One of the members stepped down a day after being inducted.