NEW DELHI: 30 days and no word from the government about a protest that has brought farmers all the way to New Delhi. And this is not for want of effort. The farmers from Tamil Nadu have tonsured their heads, they have tattoed namam (cheated one) on their bodies, they have shed blood by slashing their hands, they have rolled naked, they have sat with begging bowls in their hands, they have carried out mock funerals but----silence!

The farmers have met the President of India, the Finance Minister, Agriculture Minister, MPs from the ruling NDA and the Opposition, from different states but ...nothing.

On the 29th day, despairing, they rolled down naked in front of the Prime Ministers office. They only got a security cordon from this effort.

Today on the 30th day they have painted the demands on their bodies while sitting in protest in New Delhi. They are determined though not to move having nothing to go back to except debt and dry land.

”If nothing happens at the end, we have to commit mass suicide”, is now on every farmers lips as for them the hope with which they travelled to Delhi has turned into deep despair that is now stopping at little---like rolling down naked in front of the Prime Ministers office---to get the central government’s attention.

Ramalingam, 38, a farmer from village Kattayam Patti from Trichy district says, we have been protesting for the past 30 days in various forms very peacefully. The central government is not heeding to our genuine demands and no concrete measures from them yet. So, we decided to draw the attention of the government. “I became naked along with three other farmers and rolled down in front of the Prime Minister’s office yesterday. After wards, I was taken to the DGP office and brought to Jantar Mantar”- the officially designated site for protestors in the capital.

Jothimurugan, 45, from Thiruvallur district says, “if the central government is not coming out with any relief measures, I am going to cut my throat and die here. What is the point of going back to my village. If I go there, I will be harassed by the Bank officials to pay off my debt.”

P. AyyaKannu, president of South Indian River Linkage Association who is leading this long running protest, told The Citizen that in order to defuse or oppress the protest, he fears a conspiracy to press false charges against the protesting farmers. Clearly oppressed, AyyaKannu even went to the extent of saying that the police might even bring a dead body and press murder charges against them. “We have this from reliable sources”, he said, clearly worried that the long haul is not going to yeild results for the troubled farmers.

“We are onlu asking for our rights, we are not ruled by any imperial power, we are in ademocracy, we have our right to protest. Despite 30 days of protest, the government is looking down upon us as second class citizens and down-trodden people. When the corporate are getting the benefits and loan relief, why not farmers? They are telling us to go and protest in front of the CM’s house inTamil Nadu. Our demands are loan waivers from the nationalized bank, linking of rivers of North and south and fair and assured price for our agricultural products. These are in the hands of the Central government. What is the use of protesting in front of CM’s house?” he said.

Damodharan, 47, from the coastal district Nagapattinam says that he has borrowed 4,5 lacs as crop and tractor loans from the State Bank of India. “I could not pay back the loans as there is no availability of water either in well or in river for cultivation. Our water crisis was compounded by lack of rain. The drought is looming in the state. But, the officials from the bank came to my house to seize my tractor for not clearing the loans. They visited my house and abused my wife Varalakshmi as I was not there. Not bearing the insult, my wife committed suicide nine months ago,” he told The Citizen.

Krishnan Palaniappan Pillai, 84, says, “our immediate demand is to waive off the loans at the nationalized banks and the long term demand is the central government to start the project of interlinking of river of north and south.”

Solidarity for the protest is pouring in from civil society, activists, actors and from the various farmers associations across the country. After rolling without clothes in front of the PMO, there is now a security cordon around them.

The demands are basic:

The farmers demands:

  • Declare Tamil Nadu as a drought hit state.
  • Stop the desertification of Tamil Nadu and the regular release of water in the Cauvery River
  • Ban the dam building activity of Karnataka on the upper stream of Cauvery at Megadhathu
  • Establish a Cauvery Management Authority and Cauvery Water Sharing Board as per the Supreme Court order
  • Create a National Water Grid by linking of rivers of North with Southern rivers
  • Provide a fair and profitable price for agricultural farm products
  • Provide Rs 40,000 crores as part of drought relief measures for the farmers and peasants of Tamil Nadu
  • Set a pension of Rs 5,000 for famers even if they have children and land Waive all kinds of farm loans from nationalised, private and cooperative banks.