Tractor rally: farmers breach Delhi’s Red Fort in huge protest

Red Fort
farmers flags atop a dome at Red Fort

Thousands of farmers protesting at agriculture reforms have fought through police barricades and tear gas to enter Delhi’s historic Red Fort complex.

They were on foot and in tractors – part of a huge rally that was planned to coincide with India’s Republic Day.

Many protesters diverted from agreed routes and clashes broke out with police. One protester has died.

Mobile internet services have been suspended in parts of Delhi as security forces scramble to restore order.

The government says the reforms that spurred the protests will liberalise the agriculture sector, but farmers say they will lose income.

Tens of thousands of them have been striking on the outskirts of Delhi since November, demanding the laws be repealed. They rejected a government offer to put the laws on hold last week.

This is one of the longest farmers-led protests India has ever seen, pitting the community against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) government.

How did the protests turn violent?

Police agreed to allow Tuesday’s rally after several rounds of talks on the condition that it would not interrupt the annual Republic Day parade, which takes place in central Delhi. They gave farmers specific routes for their rally, which would largely be confined to the outskirts.

But farmers instead converged on the iconic 16th Century fortress. They breached security and clambered onto the walls and domes of the fort, even hoisting flags alongside the national flag.

By Tuesday afternoon, police said they had removed protesting farmers from the Red Fort complex, but the situation remains tense.

“We came here to deliver a message to the Modi government, our job is done. We will go back now,” one protesting farmer told NDTV.

While farmers at several entry points appear to have followed the agreed routes, a section of protesters broke through police barricades earlier in the day.

They marched towards central Delhi, where India’s parliament is located.

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