Farmers' tractor rally against the contentious agricultural laws on Republic Day was "infiltrated by anti-social elements", the protesters' body Samyukt Kisan Morcha said in a statement this evening, hours after thousands of demonstrators clashed with policemen in different parts of Delhi. Protesters were tear-gassed and baton-charged shortly after they pushed down barricades at the borders this morning and stormed into the heart of the city amid celebrations for 72nd Republic Day.
One farmer died after a speeding tractor overturned in central Delhi's ITO, the police said. A large number of protesters stormed into the iconic Red Fort by afternoon. They were seen within the ramparts of the iconic Mughal-built monument, trying to put up their yellow flags at the spot where Prime Ministers hoist the national flag
"We thank farmers for the unprecedented participation in today's Farmers Republic Day Parade. We also condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events that have taken place today and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts," the farmers' body said.
"Despite all our efforts, some organisations and individuals have violated the route and indulged in condemnable acts. Anti-social elements had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful movement. We have always held that peace is our biggest strength, and that any violation would hurt the movement," the statement read.
The long struggle for more than six months now, and more than 60 days of protest at Delhi borders also seemed to have led to this situation, it added.
"We dissociate ourselves from all such elements that have violated our discipline. We appeal strongly to everyone to stick to the route and norms of the parade, and not indulge in any violent action or anything that taints national symbols and dignity. We appeal to everyone to desist from any such acts," the Samyukta Kisan Morcha stressed.
"Our information is that apart from some regrettable violations, the parades are underway peacefully as per plan," it insisted.
Union Minister Prahlad Patel condemned the incidents of violence in a tweet, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office. "Lal Quila is a symbol of the dignity of our democracy... the demonstrators should have stayed away from the Red Fort. I condemn these incidents. It's unfortunate," he wrote.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the government should repeal farm laws. "Violence is not the solution to any problem. Irrespective of who gets hurt, it's the country which will suffer. Take back the anti-agricultural law for the sake of the country," he wrote.
Eleven rounds of talks have failed to break the standoff over the agricultural laws.