The actions by farmers on the outskirts of Delhi between September and December last year left the police with no option but to use tear gas, water cannons and force to control the crowd, the Home Ministry said in parliament on Tuesday.
The government was responding to questions in the Lok Sabha from five Congress MPs, who asked why the police used tear gas and batons against the farmers in the last four months of 2020, details of cases filed against them and the number of protesters who have died by suicide at the protest.
"They (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," Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said.
"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," Mr Reddy said.
On the police using tear gas and resorting to the use of force against protesting farmers, the minister said it has been reported by the Delhi Police that large convoys of agitating farmers in tractor trolleys "tried to furiously force their way and go past police barricades to enter Delhi".
Mr Reddy also informed the Lok Sabha that 39 cases were registered between September and December 2020 against farmers protesting the agricultural laws at Delhi's borders. These 39 cases were excluding those registered after the farmers' tractor rally violence on January 26.
The minister also said that the Delhi Police has informed the Home Ministry that one suicide case was reported during the period at the protest.
Before the clashes on Republic Day last month, triggered by sections of the farmers' massive tractor parade straying from agreed routes, the police in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand had violently tried on several occasions.to stop the farmers' protest that has emerged as one of the biggest to challenges for Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he took office in 2014.
The farmers have been protesting against the laws pushed through parliament by the government last September which they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporates. The government has denied the charge and said the laws will give more options to the growers to sell their produce.