Thousands of farmers in tractor convoys broke through police barricades to protest new farm laws in the heart of India’s capital as the country marked Republic Day with a military parade.
Police had sealed most of the city’s entrances with containers and trucks earlier on Tuesday and used tear gas and batons when farmers stormed in.
Some protesters reached a major intersection 3 km (1.8 miles) from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government leaders watched tanks and troops parade and fighter jets fly overhead .
Modi waved to the crowd and sent greetings on Twitter for the National Day without mentioning the farmers.
He was escorted back to his residence before any personal confrontation with the farmers, the biggest challenge his Hindu nationalist government has faced in his six years in power.
Authorities had agreed to let the farmers organize a tractor rally while they waited for the official Republic Day parade to end.
But protesters waving flags on at least four main thoroughfares have climbed or simply pushed aside barricades and concrete blocks and forced their way into the city.
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of the capital since November, protesting against new laws that deregulate produce markets.
Union leaders say the laws will allow private Indian conglomerates to take control of the agricultural sector – the backbone of the economy – by displacing the current system of government purchasing at guaranteed prices.
Smaller farmer protests have also taken place in other cities including Mumbai and Bengaluru.