Authorities on Saturday arrested over 20 people in connection with the violence that broke out in the national capital during a farmers’ rally on Republic Day, while mobile internet services were suspended for two days at key border points near Delhi where thousands of protesters have been camping since November-end as a part of their ongoing movement against three agricultural laws.
It was for the second time in a week that internet services were suspended at Singhu and Tikri borders connecting Delhi to Haryana and the Ghazipur border connecting Delhi to Uttar Pradesh. The fresh decision to snap the services between 11pm on January 29 and 11pm on January 31 came after the Delhi Police’s request to the Union home ministry.
As investigation into the violent protests gathered pace, Delhi Police officials raided several locations in Punjab and identified a person suspected to have hoisted a farmers’ union flag and a religious flag at Red Fort on Tuesday, people aware of the developments said.
Police say the farmers deviated from the routes agreed upon, entered parts of central and New Delhi areas, resorted to vandalism and attacked police personnel. At least 38 first information reports (FIRs) have been registered and 84 people arrested — 22 of them on Saturday — in connection with the violence.
On Tuesday too, internet services were suspended, albeit temporarily, when violence broke out during a tractor rally by farmers who want the government to repeal the laws that they say will hurt their livelihood. At least 394 police personnel and 10 farmers were injured in the clashes that broke out in several places, including the historic Red Fort and the ITO intersection.
This was also the third time that mobile internet services were suspended in Delhi in the past 14 months. On December 19, 2019, the government snapped the internet connections during protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA.
Kultar Singh, a farmer at Tikri, said the government was attempting to “derail” the movement and “break” the farmers’ communication channels by suspending internet services. “Our brothers are coming to join us from parts of Haryana and Punjab. To ensure that we are not able to communicate with them, the government blocked internet services. But they will not succeed. This government is terrified. So they are resorting to these tactics,” Singh said.
The move came in the backdrop of a group of people, who said they were local residents, entering the protest site at Singhu, triggering clashes with the demonstrators on Friday. On the same day, tension spiralled at Tikri after farmers and locals almost came to blows even as the number of protesters swelled in Ghazipur.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police teams conducted raids across Punjab to arrest those involved in the Republic Day violence.
A Delhi Police officer, who did not want to be named, said a police team was in Jalandhar to trace a man named Jugraj Singh. The officer identified Singh as the person who hoisted two flags at the Red Fort – a flag of a farmers’ union and a religious flag — on Tuesday. “He is a farmer and also a school dropout. He is currently on the run. We have met his family and the local police there. He hasn’t returned home,” the officer said.
Officials who requested anonymity said police teams were also conducting raids in Ludhiana, Moga and Tarn Taran.
A second officer said police were also looking at those caught on tape during the protests. “We have taken the assistance of Punjab police while conducting raids and arresting such suspects,” the second official said. He added that the special cell (police’s anti-terror unit) was separately probing the role of prominent faces of the protest because they believe the violence was planned.
“Our first task is to arrest those who indulged in violence on the road. The second will be to probe how the ring leaders had got them to indulge the violence on Republic Day. Look out circulars (LOC) have already been issued against farm leaders to ensure that they do not flee. The investigation has just started,” the second officer added.
A forensic team also visited Red Fort to collect samples of the alleged damage to the Archaeological Survey of India-protected structure and evidence related to the protesters assaulting police personnel inside the monument.