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Opinion | Come on, farm leaders: Call off your agitation and apologize to the nation

The farmer leaders had promised a peaceful tractor march, but their promises were thrown to the winds, trampled upon by their own unruly followers, who indulged in gross acts of vandalism, charging their tractors with full speed at policemen, trying to crush them.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: January 27, 2021 11:28 IST
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Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | Come on, farm leaders: Call off your agitation and apologize to the nation

On Republic Day, the nation watched in anguish and horror as goons posing as farmers forced their way into the historic Red Fort and hoisted a yellow cloth on the flag pole at the ramparts, at exactly the same spot where the Prime Ministers of India had been hoisting the Tricolour since Independence. Never in Independent India’s history, such a thing happened, nor should have happened.

Today every Indian is angry over the desecration of the spot considered as sacred by the people of India, the national tricolour was insulted and the rich legacy of the Red Fort was besmirched. These hoodlums, whom we had been believing as farmers, committed this act of sacrilege, taking advantage of the lawlessness when farmers on tractors deviated from their fixed routes.
The farmer leaders had promised a peaceful tractor march, but their promises were thrown to the winds, trampled upon by their own unruly followers, who indulged in gross acts of vandalism, charging their tractors with full speed at policemen, trying to crush them, beating them with lathis, pushing them off the walls of Red Fort, smashing buses and waving swords and iron rods menacingly.
Delhi Police showed extraordinary restraint and did not fire a single bullet. Only tear gas and lathis were used to disperse the mobs. More than 120 policemen suffered injuries, many of whom are in the hospital undergoing treatment.
The perfidious acts of hoodlums in the guise of farmers have brought a bad name to our country on the occasion of Republic Day. The sympathy that the entire nation expressed towards farmers during the last two months, has ended as these hoodlums appeared from the crowds of farmers and attacked our historical heritage.
All the farmer leaders, who were posing before the cameras for the last two months, giving homilies, did the disappearing act. On top of it, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in the evening, brazenly lied when it claimed in its statement that the tractor march was peaceful. Images of the horrible attacks on police, public properties and historical places nail their lies and their press statement deserves to be thrown into the waster paper basket.
Where were these farm leaders who were promising a peaceful protest, when their followers were charging their tractors intending to kill policemen? Where were these leaders when these violent protesters challenged the government and its security forces, and insulted the national flag and forced their way into the Red Fort? Whatever happened on Republic Day was premeditated, all these acts of infamy were pre-scripted, the farm leaders had lied, the police had accepted their lies at face value.
Whatever happened on Republic Day has made every Indian, every farmer, hang his or her head in shame. No Indian will ever accept anybody trying to hoist his own flag on the sacred pole, where the national tricolour is hoist every year on Independence Day. Images of the protesters insulting the tricolour will make the blood of every Indian curdle in anger.
For the first time in the 73-year-old history of India's independence was the Red Fort desecrated in this manner. More than 28,000 jawans and officers of our armed forces have laid down their lives over the years in defence of our national flag. No enemy could ever dare insult our flag in any manner whatsoever, but here, our own men committed this act of sacrilege.
The historic Red Fort is an abiding symbol of our great national heritage and our enemies have always tried their best to attack the Red Fort but failed. They will fail in future too, but it is sad to note that some of our own men, in the guise of farmers, came and tarnish the nation’s honour. The violent mob that forced its way inside the fort, was armed with iron rods, and many of them were carrying lathis and swords. The attack was pre-planned, the mob was shouting slogans, the policemen were pushed away from the rails of the ramparts, down the fort wall several feet below. The perpetrators must be punished, at the earliest. They must be put behind bars and tried for sedition.
The act of sacrilege did not stop there. The hoodlums also slid atop the nearby dome of the fort, and planted another flag on top of it. All this was being done for the benefit of the camera, so that the images could be splashed across the world media, to tarnish India’s image on its national day. There were anti-nationals, in the guise of farmers, who wanted to dent India's great image of a 72-year-old democratic republic. On this day in 1950, we, the people of India, had sworn on our Constitution to uphold our lofty ideals of equality, liberty and democracy. The people of India will never forget these horrible images of sacrilege, ever. The people of India will never pardon these anti-national elements.
Almost all political parties have condemned these acts of sacrilege, violence and lawlessness. Punjab chief minister Capt. Amrinder Singh appealed to "all genuine farmers to vacate Delhi and return to borders…The violence by some elements is unacceptable, it will negate the goodwill generated by peacefully protesting farmers.” I appreciate Capt. Amrinder Singh for not trying to shield the perpetrators of violence and condemning those who committed the acts of sacrilege. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should learn a lesson or two from him because when there are attacks on police with swords and our national heritage is desecrated, one must rise above politics and condemn such acts.
On Monday night itself, in my show 'Aaj Ki Baat', I had expressed apprehension about the possibility of protesters deviating from routes and resorting to violence, because I was sceptical about these farm leaders, who claimed to represent the protesters. I want to ask them, did these protesters join them with iron rods and sticks, in order to offer ‘shanti paath’ (hymns of peace)? Were these protesters offering garlands while pelting stones at policemen?
It's now time that these farm leaders must admit that they cannot lead the ongoing protests because the protesters do not listen to them. There is no point in these leaders issuing threats to the government or the media. If they have an iota of shame left, these farm leaders should suspend their agitation and apologize before the entire nation. Whatever happened on Republic Day was shameful and the nation is angry and hurt. The responsibility for this must be borne by those leaders of 41 farmer organisations who sat at the negotiating table inside Vigyan Bhavan.
I have seen JP's movement during the Seventies. There was a single leader, Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan, whose single message used to bring peace and unity among the various students' organization spread across India. Let's remember Mahatma Gandhi, who called off his Non-Cooperation Movement in 1922 when rioters in Chauri Chaura of UP's Gorakhpur district set a police station on fire killing 22 policemen. One needs leaders with a large heart to take such decisions, but unfortunately, these farm leaders are pygmies compared to our great national leaders.


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