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Union minister Smriti Irani on Friday accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of “declaring war” on the people of the country. Her comment came after Gandhi warned that the protests against the farming laws will spread if the government doesn’t find a solution to the crisis.

“Rahul Gandhi today declared war on the people of India,” Irani said at a press briefing. “He said that if his political stand is not supported by the PM [Prime Minister] of our country, then cities will burn! I appeal to every Indian citizen to ensure that Rahul Gandhi’s call for violence is met with sustained peace.”

The minister said that for the first time in history, a Congress leader had called for “more violence” instead of peace. Irani claimed that Gandhi announced that the violence during the farmers’ tractor rally would be replicated in “every city and even in slums”.

Irani accused Gandhi of not sympathising with the policemen who were injured during the rally. “He [Gandhi] did not say a single word for the media persons who were attacked,” she added.

At a press briefing earlier in the day, Gandhi had again criticised the government for its handling of the farmers’ protest. “What is being done to the farmers is absolutely criminal,” he had said. “You are bullying them, you are threatening them, you are trying to discredit them.”

The Congress leader added that the government needed to talk to the farmers and offer them a solution. “The only solution is repealing the laws, and putting the laws in the waste paper basket,” Gandhi had said. “My concern is that this situation [the agitation] is going to spread. We do not need this situation to spread, we need a conversation and a solution.”

Gandhi also raised questions about security lapses during the tractor rally. “Who let the farmers enter Red Fort and why?” he asked. “Wasn’t it the home ministry’s responsibility to stop them? Who is responsible? Go and ask the home minister about this.”

The farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day turned chaotic after a section of protestors deviated from the routes agreed to with the Delhi Police. One protestor was killed in the clashes. Prominent farmer unions and leaders distanced themselves from the violence, and blamed it on certain “anti-social elements”.

After the tractor rally violence, tensions arose at farmers’ protest sites on Delhi’s borders. Farmers camping at Ghazipur at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border were on Thursday given an ultimatum by the administration to clear the site by midnight. However, Bharatiya Kisan Union Spokesperson Rakesh Tikait tearfully declared that he would rather die by suicide than end the agitation. His emotional message resonated with the protestors, who made an about turn to return to the site in huge numbers.

At Singhu border, a group of around 200 people claiming to be local residents indulged in stone pelting on Friday and damaged tents pitched by the farmers. They demanded that farmers leave the spot.

The police reportedly did not try to stop the group at first but resorted to the use tear gas shells and batons after the situation escalated. Several people, including Delhi Police Station House Office (Alipur) Pradeep Paliwal, were injured in the clashes. The police arrested 44 people in connection with the violence.