A day after a farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day that dissolved into chaos and violence after protesters forced their way into Delhi, the farmer leader who knocked down the first barricade has denied any role in the Red Fort breach. Satnam Singh Pannu blamed the ruling BJP of organising the Red Fort violence to tarnish the farmer protests.
Satnam Singh Pannu and members of his Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a smaller group participating in the two-month protests against three farm laws, were responsible for breaking through the first barricade at Delhi’s borders, at a point called the “Muqarba Chowk”.
The planned tractor rally, permitted after the Republic Day parade in the capital was over, descended into lawlessness after the farmers broke through barricades before time and changed the agreed route. After reaching the heart of Delhi and clashing with the police, protesters drove their tractors into the iconic Red Fort, armed with sticks and flags. A religious flag called “Nishan Sahib” was put up by the protesters, who were also seen chasing and attacking policemen in videos.
Mr Pannu said the change of route was not unannounced.
“We had declared at the outset that we would take the Outer Ring Road. Even the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (the group leading the farmer protests) had also said so, but it backed out later. We broke barricades only when the police stopped us,” he said.
“We kept telling the police that we will peacefully go on the Outer Ring Road.”
Mr Pannu insisted that his group had nothing to do with the Red Fort violence later. He named Deep Sidhu, a Punjabi actor and activist, of instigating the clashes and planting a Sikh religious flag.
“Whatever happened at Red Fort is because of Deep Sidhu. Why didn’t the police stop him at Red Fort? He is close to the ruling party.”