On Tuesday, as India awoke to its 72nd Republic Day, there was added significance to the morning. Farmers protesting against the new farm laws along Delhi’s border had planned a tractor rally into the capital. The plan was to start at noon, after the Republic Day celebrations had ended. However, at around 8 am, some of the farmers breached the barricades put up along the proposed route of the rally by the police to stop them.
Social media feeds of various news outlets showed scenes of chaos once the Republic Day parade began, with the police using lathicharge and teargas on farmers at some places. However, when one turned on TV news channels, none of that was there. Instead what we saw was the Doordarshan feed of the parade on Rajpath.
The channel’s coverage of the tractor rally began at 7.30 am and wasn’t limited to a ticker but included reports from Delhi, Punjab, and Mumbai. They also covered the breach of the barricades live from the ground at around 8:40 am.
From 9:30 am, NDTV, like most other channels, stuck to broadcasting the Republic Day parade using the live DD feed. At around 11 am though, the channel showcased a split screen with live DD commentary on the parade juxtaposed against scenes from the tractor rally. Once the parade ended, NDTV cut live to reporters on the ground who spoke about the situation at various places along the tractor rally’s route.
India Today was also on the ground when the barricades were removed, having sent out a team of reporters to cover the follow through the day.
One of the reporters, Kamaljit Sandu, followed the protesting farmers after they removed the barricades and reported live from a moving car.
The channel used such headlines as “Tractor Rally Showdown” and “Farm Laws Showdown”. Once the Rajpath parade started, the channel stuck to showing the DD feed.
Aaj Tak covered the breach as well and aired visuals from both Singhu and Tikri borders. However, their coverage before and after this “breaking news” was limited to the Republic Day celebrations, their enthusiasm indicated by the countdown on the screen.
Other news channels such as Republic TV, Times Now, ABP News, TV9 Bharatvarsh, CNN News18, and Zee News also dutifully stuck to airing the Republic Day parade with no live coverage of the tractor rally. Once the parade got over, they turned their attention to the tractor rally, only to tell their viewers how the farmers had created “mayhem” in the capital. (Since their live feeds don’t allow one to scroll through them, we could not check if they covered the breach of the barricades at any point in the morning.)
On Republic TV, the anchors spoke about how the protesters were not farmers but hooligans with an “evil intention” of disrupting normal life.
An ABP News anchor called the whole rally a blot on the nation on the joyous occasion of Republic Day. A reporter from TV9 Bharatvarsh brandished a bottle of alcohol which he scooped out of one of the tractors to make the claim that farmers were drinking and driving.
At the time of filing this report, the tractor rally had reached close to Central Delhi. Near ITO, the Delhi police resorted to teargassing and lathicharging the protesters. There are visuals of protestors trying to remove buses parked as barricades along their way with tractors and throwing teargas shells back at the police. At other places, the rally continues peacefully along the designated route.
Follow Newslaundry’s coverage of the tractor rally on our Hindi and English social media feeds.