The farmers’ Republic Day tractor parade will only be a symbolic gesture in Bengaluru. The police, who initially refused to allow any tractors into the city, relented after several hours of negotiation and agreed to allow “a few” tractors to hold a symbolic tractor parade, sources said.
However, there was official police confirmation of this, and till late on Monday, many who tried to reach Bengaluru on tractors were not allowed to move towards the city.
While the police have allowed a rally of farmers coming from other districts into the city in other vehicles to congregate at Freedom Park, they refused to allow tractors in till late in the night.
“The State government has been keen on suppressing farmers’ movement through the police. Several tractors that had begun their journey towards Bengaluru have been seized and farmers harassed in several districts. The police have now agreed to allow only a few tractors into the city as a symbolic gesture,” said G.C. Bayyareddy, convener of Karnataka Chapter of All-India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee.
The tractor parade being reduced to a symbolic rally is not something many farmer leaders are happy with. Kodihalli Chandrashekhar said this was unacceptable to them and thousands of tractors from the adjoining districts would come to the city on Tuesday. Senior police officials, however, said they would be stopped at the city’s entry points.
Tractors have turned out to be the bone of contention. Cooperation Minister S.T. Somashekhar, also from Bengaluru, said: “It will be difficult to run tractors on the roads of Bengaluru. If thousands of tractors are allowed to descend here, everything else will have to stop.” He appealed to farmers to cooperate. When quizzed over the tractor parade in Delhi, he said it was allowed in Delhi “as the road network in the national capital was different from that of Bengaluru”.
However, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) leader Badagalapura Nagendra argued: “Tractor is a symbol of farmers and it is unacceptable to us that police say we can protest, but without tractors. Farmers’ tractor parade is a symbolic protest across the country on Republic Day, to show who the real people of this country are”.
Earlier in the day, the police authorities stopped tractors that had begun their journey towards Bengaluru from several districts, including Kodagu, Mysuru, Tumakuru and Belagavi. Farmers who were making their journeys sat in protest where the tractors were stopped. The police have also seized all tractors that were part of the rally, which has further angered the farmers.
Meanwhile, the Bengaluru traffic police designated routes for farmers coming into the city from eight entry points, including Devanahalli, Hosakote, Tumakuru Road, Mysuru Road, Kanakapura Road and Hosur Road, to congregate at Freedom Park.