Today is a good litmus test for our TV channels.
There are two Indias parading in the Capital just a few kilometres away from each other – one is a spectacle for the people and the other is a demonstration by the people; one is about gentrifying the ugly under tidy uniforms and flower showers, the other about tilling soil and sleeping on the road to take on the ugly; one is about teleprompter speeches and screaming commands, the other about roars of folk songs, shayaris, ghazals and dedications; one is a parade where the police secures the spectacle, and the other is where the police becomes the threat and creates a spectacle. To watch the tidy spectacle, you must buy tickets and invitation cards, to participate in the other, you must carry a helmet and gas mask.
Which India will our TV channels show today? The one that wants you to switch on your TVs from your couches and watch the entertaining parade, or will it show the parade that wants you to join your fellows and win back the democracy that is rightfully yours?
Chances are the Goswamis, the Chaudharys and the Devgans in front of most of you only want you to watch Modi in a turban and white beard. But if you want updates on the sight of thousands of farmers who are driving a convoy of tractors with brightly-coloured flags and playing folk songs in the background, here goes:
At 10:30pm last night, i.e. January 25, 2020, the police put up barricades at three points on the highway to block the rally despite having giving permission earlier. Trucks and containers were lined up further.
Ready with their throbbing tractors, farmers broke the first barricade at 8am and finally crossed the Delhi border after a wait of over two months.
While the rest of the groups agreed to march on the route permitted by the Delhi police (whose name might change to Dalli police soon), Kisaan Mazdoor Sangharsh committee declared a protest on the Outer Ring Road last night and started moving towards that.
A few hours before the firing of 21-gun salute near India Gate, at the entry of the Outer Ring Road, an even bigger firing of tear gas by the police could be heard to welcome the farmers.
At 12:38pm, the second barricade was broken, continuing the march on the Outer Ring Road. The rally then started moving towards Lal Quila.
Meanwhile, at Tikri border, the first police barricade was knocked down at around 9:30am. According to officials, security personnel told the farmers that the tractor parade is allowed only once the Republic Day parade near India Gate is over, “but some groups of farmers did not relent and started moving towards the Outer Ring Road breaking police barricades,” an official said.
The parade will start from Tikri Border and pass through Nangloi, Baprola Village and Najafgarh, excluding Phirni Road, Jharoda Border, Rohtak Bypass (Bahadurgarh) and Asoda Toll Plaza, with traffic police to divert traffic at various points.
At around 11:30am, tear gas was fired at the Ghazipur border as well to disperse the farmers attempting to break the barricades for the ‘Kisan Gantantra Parade’.
As farmers headed towards the Red Fort from all three points, policemen resorted to charging lathis and firing tear shells. Nevertheless, they managed to enter the Fort complex and hoisted flags at the fort by 2:30pm.
Meanwhile, other regions, including the Faridabad-Palwal area, where tractor parades are going to be held are being surveilled by drones.
More awaits to be seen as protestors carry ration for 24 hours, without a declaration of the time when they parade might end. The farmers’ committees have also announced a foot march to the Parliament on February 1, the day when Budget for the next term is to be presented, in opposition to the three farm laws.