NEW DELHI: The farmers of Tamil Nadu, who had acquired national prominence because of their long and innovative protest in Delhi, are now undertaking a yatra through Tamil Nadu since March 1. In these two weeks that have been confronted by the BJP workers at different points, with a BJP woman leader slapping the farmers leader P.Ayyakannu leading to a scuffle.

Ayyakannu told The Citizen that the farmers are facing resistance in the form of threats and abuse by the BJP, a marginal party in Tamil Nadu. Instead of supporting the movement for fair prices, loan waivers BJP workers stopped the farmers and raised black flags against them in Aralvaimozhi town, Kanyakumari district

P.Ayyakannu who has been in the lead received threat calls. One of the callers abused him with “naked Ayyakannu”. He was warned of consequences if he is continued with the march. On the eighth day, while the farmers were distributing their pamphlets outside the famous Murugan temple at Thiruchendur in Tuticorin district a woman barged in and told the devotees “do not take the pamphlets”. Targeting Ayyakannu, she described him as a “fraud”.

One of the farmers in the group used a Tamil cuss word, implying slut. On this she slapped Ayyakannu. The temple authorities intervened to break the scuffle. The woman was identified as Nellaiyammal, the district secretary of BJP’s women’s wing. P.Ayyakannu said she was instigated by the BJP leaders of the state to “trap me so that the march could be curtailed”. She alleged that Ayyakannu abused her.

Ayyakannu said that “some elements in the state are planning to derail the march by instigating such incidents”. A lawyer by profession, he said that he has subsequently advised the farmers to restrain themselves, and not respond to such incidents. The phone calls abusing the farmers continue.

Ayyakannu told The Citizen that “if the Cauvery Management Authority is not formed within six weeks (i.e 29th March) as per the Supreme Court order, we are going to commit suicide in front of the Prime Minister’s residence”.

The farmers protested for 144 days in Delhi to highlight the plight of their entire community in Tamil Nadu, hit by drought and loans. They staged symbolic protests carrying the skulls and bones of farmers who had committed suicide, unable to repay their huge farm loans. The farmers also resorted to tonsuring their hair, stripping, clenching dead rats in their mouths, sleeping on thorns, eating food from the road, running naked in front of the Prime Ministers Office. But the government remained immune, and while the farmers novel protests got international headlines, their demands were not even acknowledged by the governments beyond a perfunctory visit by the Tamil Nadu CM to the protest site in Delhi. However, nothing came of it.

Tamil Nadu has been reeling under drought and dry rivers due to the long disputes of water sharing with neighboring states like Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. This march is now for 100 days with 25 farmers covering 32 districts of the state. They are submitting petitions to the concerned District Collectors and addressing meetings organised by farmers organisations along the way.

Their demands include:

-Ban the use of genetically modified seeds

-Save humanity from adulterated food

-Minimum support price for Agricultural or farm products as suggested by the M.S.Swaminathan Commission

- Individual Crop Insurance Scheme

-Set a pension of Rs 5,000 for farmers even if they have children

-Establish a Cauvery Management Authority within six weeks as per the Supreme Court order.

-Declare the Cauvery delta districts as ‘protected Agricultural Zone’

-Create a National Water Grid by linking of rivers of North with Southern rivers

-Resistance for the corporate take over of agricultural lands for commercial projects.