Protesting farmers broke through police barricades and check posts, clashed with cops and entered the heart of the capital after deviating from the designated routes

The unprecedented scenes of chaos in Delhi on Republic Day point to a massive intelligence failure and also put a question mark on the strategy adopted by the Union home ministry to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control, many felt.

Protesting farmers broke through police barricades and check posts, clashed with cops and entered the heart of the capital after deviating from the designated routes, prompting the law-enforcers to fire tear smoke canisters and lathicharge those descending on Delhi on tractors. One farmer died near central Delhi’s ITO after his tractor overturned, the police said. Protesters, however, claimed that he was killed in police firing.

At many places the police were outnumbered as thousands of farmers fought through barricades and tear gas to enter the Red Fort complex. They were on foot and in tractors. As they headed towards central Delhi, many of them were heard raising slogans: “Delhi is not just for Modi and his ministers but ours too.”

Maintaining law and order in Delhi is the primary responsibility of the Union home ministry and Delhi police directly report to Union home minister Amit Shah. The ministry also controls the intelligence agencies.

Shah held a security review meeting in the evening where home secretary Ajay Bhalla and Delhi police commissioner S.N. Srivastava were present. During the meeting, which lasted for an hour, the minister was briefed on the clashes. Sources said Shah asked the police to take stringent action against those who violated the route agreement between the force and farm leaders.

Additional paramilitary forces have been deployed in Delhi following the protests.

A former Delhi police commissioner said the violence during the tractor rally was a “complete intelligence failure” on the part of the central government.

“What were intelligence agencies doing over the past few days? It also puts a big question mark on the political leadership,” he said.

“Such protests are never a guided tour and it is common knowledge that in such a huge rally, protesters will try and enter Delhi and violate the designated routes to prove their point. But our security agencies completely failed to control it,” he said.

He also criticised the government for not resolving the farm protest and allowing it to fester for months as over 150 farmers died at protest sites.

“Over the past two months the government did not do anything to defuse the situation despite several rounds of meetings with farmer unions. Over 150 farmers have died but the government turned a blind eye. The violence and chaos that we witnessed today would have never happened had the government consulted farmers before passing the farm laws,” he said.

Actress and one-time Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Chandigarh Gul Panag said in a tweet. “It appears that the government has got what it wanted from day one! It was waiting for an opportunity to show the entire protest in poor light, by design or default. Constant attempts at needling/provoking the protesters, undermining, subverting, debasing the protests. Sad.”

Crowds swelled at the three borders around 9am on Tuesday. Farmers were seen breaching barriers at the Singhu border near Haryana.

At Delhi’s Akshardham, the police were seen firing tear gas shells from an overbridge as protesters looked for cover. At Mubarka Chowk, a group of protesters reportedly hurled stones at cops. A video showed policemen lathicharging protesters.

Confrontations between farmers and the police were reported at several points. Farmers at several entry points appeared to have followed the agreed routes but a section of protesters broke through barricades. At ITO, which is on the route to central Delhi, policemen clashed with protesters, lathicharged them and used tear gas.

By afternoon, a large group had reached the Red Fort. “We came here to deliver a message to the Modi government. Our job is done. We will go back now,” said a farmer.