Centre defends police use of tear gas on protesters
Defending the use force on protesting farmers during the January 26 tractor rally that descended into violence and chaos, the Union government told Parliament on Tuesday that Delhi Police was left with no option but to use tear gas, water cannons, and mild force to control the agitating crowd, which was also breaking Covid safety protocols. .
The ministry of home affairs (MHA), which oversees the policing of the Capital, said that Delhi Police have registered 39 cases between September and December 2020 against the farmers protesting against the new farm laws. These cases do not include those registered in connection with the January 26 violence.
Responding to a query by several members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, Union minister of state (home affairs) G Kishan Reddy said in a written reply: “As regards the use of tear gas and resorting to lathi charge against protesting farmers by the Delhi Police, it has been reported by Delhi Police that at Delhi border, large convoys of protesting farmers in tractor trolleys tried to furiously force their way and go past police barricades to enter Delhi to mark their protest against the recently enacted farm laws.”
He added that the farmers “aggressively resorted to rioting, damage to government property, and used criminal force to deter public servants from the discharge of their duty, thereby inflicting injuries to the on-duty police personnel. Moreover, social distancing was not followed by the farmers/protestors and they gathered in large numbers without face masks amid Covid-19 pandemic. The farmers’ actions left the Delhi Police with no option but to use tear gas, water cannons and mild force to control the crowd”.
The minister told Parliament that one case of a farmer’s suicide has been reported to the ministry by the police till date.
The Centre, however, appeared to duck a question on number of farmers who have lost their lives so far during the agitation, which have been going on at Delhi’s borders for over two months now. To a query on number of farmers’ killed so far during agitation, the MHA told Parliament that police and law and order is a state subject. “The responsibilities of maintaining law and order, including investigation, registration / prosecution of crimes, conviction of accused, protection of life and property etc. rests primarily with the respective state governments,” the MHA reply stated.
In Delhi, law and order comes under the Union government.
Farmers claim that over 100 people have died on Delhi’s borders, for various reasons, since the agitation began.
The minister also did not give a specific response to a question seeking evidence from the home ministry on the claim that “terrorists have infiltrated the farmers’ agitation”. Over the last month, the government and intelligence agencies have repeatedly said that the farmers’ agitation has been hijacked by some pro-Khalistan elements.
Avik Saha, Secretary of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), said, “The government has always been very shy of admitting farmers’ deaths, be it suicides or now during the agitation. ”