The Delhi Police on Monday arrested least five people after a tractor was set on fire near the India Gate in the national capital during the ongoing protests against three farm bills, passed recently by Parliament. A case was registered under sections 3 Epidemic Act, 51 (B) Disaster Management Act, 4 Damage to Public Property Act, 188, 435, 283, 285, 269.
The police also seized an Innova car and the truck in which the tractor was brought. Sandeep Singh Bhullar, a resident of Punjab’s Bathinda, had bought this tractor. He is a secretary in Punjab Youth Congress and claims to be a farmer too.
Sandeep bought the tractor from a farmer in Teona on September 19. The tractor was purchased for Rs 58, 000 and belongs to Harmandeep Singh, son of Darshan Singh of Teona village in Bathinda district.
Sandeep was scheduled to come to Delhi with 1,500 tractors. On September 20, an attempt was made to set this tractor on fire at the Shambhu border area of Punjab and Haryana but was stopped by the fire brigade.
It was decided on September 26 that the tractor would be lit on fire at Rajpath and brought the tractor from Punjab in a truck. The tractor reached Delhi at 3.30 am.
According to Delhi Police, the fire officials were informed about the incident at 7.42 am and two fire tenders were rushed to the spot to control the fire. The protesters were carrying posters of Bhagat Singh and also raised anti-government slogans.
DCP New Delhi told news agency ANI, “Around 15- 20 persons gathered here [India Gate] and tried to set a tractor on fire. The fire has been doused off and a tractor was also removed. Those involved are being identified. Probe underway.”
The BJP on Monday blasted the Congress over the burning of a tractor near India Gate here, allegedly by opposition party workers, saying it has “shamed” the country with its “drama” aimed at publicity and “misleading” farmers. Senior party leaders, including Union ministers, hit out at the Congress with Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar condemning the incident and accusing the opposition of misleading farmers.
“Congress shamed the country today. Bringing tractor in a truck and then burning it at India Gate is a drama enacted by the Congress and we condemn it. The party has been trying to do politics in the name of farmers, and it has been unmasked. It has enacted a drama for publicity,” he told reporters.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav dubbed the Congress as “anti-farmers”, saying farmers venerate their farm equipment and will not set tractors on fire. This burning of tractors by the Congress and other opposition parties in the name of farmers is shameful, he said, adding that they should not use India’s food producers for politics.
Another Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took a swipe at the opposition party, saying it is protesting against farmers’ freedom in the name of Bhagat Singh, whose birth anniversary fell on Monday, by burning a tractor. “Its conspiracy has been unmasked,” he said. Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Tejasvi Surya alleged that youth Congress workers were involved in burning the tractor.
“Our farmers worship tools they use for farming. No real farmer ever burns his tractor. If at all the Youth Congress wanted to show their support to farmers, they could have donated the tractor to a poor farmer instead of burning it. But how can they? Destroying is all they know,” he said in a statement.
“In the guise of a protest against the government’s reforms for farmers, it is said that the youth Congress is destroying property,” Surya, Member of Parliament from Bengaluru South, said. Accusing the opposition party of misleading farmers, Javadekar said its manifesto had promised to do what the Modi government has done with its farm sector reform bills and added that former prime minister Manmohan Singh had also spoken similarly on the issue.
“Now, Congress is trying to mislead farmers by speaking in a different voice. But it will not succeed,” he said, noting that the minimum support price and APMC mechanism is continuing. This is why the Congress is getting increasingly “disconnected” with people, he said.
Meanwhile, the farmers of Karnataka have called a state-wide bandh on Monday to protest against the farm bills. The police force has been deployed at several places in the state to maintain law and order.
The farmers are protesting against Farm Bills, land reform ordinances, amendments to Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and labour laws. On September 27, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had urged the farmers to withdraw the shutdown call, as it would disrupt normal life and cause inconvenience to thousands of people in COVID times.
The chief minister, however, said measures are being taken to ensure normal life is not affected and people are able to go to work by operating public services like buses and metro rail in the city.