Tamil Nadu farmers return to Jantar Mantar with skulls and chains
The group of farmers from Tamil Nadu who had grabbed headlines earlier this year, for their unique methods of protests, have returned to Jantar Mantar with 17 skulls and 17 pairs of femur bones allegedly of farmers who had committed suicide in the face of drought and debt.
The group of almost a 100 farmers resumed their protest, demanding loan waivers, revised drought packages, a Cauvery Management Committee, and fair prices for their products, among other things. The farmers, clad in green loin cloth, and waiting with the skulls of their peers and two bottles of poison prove an ominous sight.
“What are we to do? We can’t live like this. We went back based on the reassurances of Edappadi (Palanisamy, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu) and others. But they have not delivered on any of their promises. Maybe our deaths will move these people into action,” said John Milkyaraj, a farmer who owes over 25 lakh rupees in loans.
The farmers had earlier this year been at Jantar Mantar for over 40 days, and had made headlines for their unique protest methods, including biting mice and snake bits, holding mock funerals and threatening to drink their own urine.
The farmers resumed their protest after the Supreme Court stayed the Madras High Court order directing the state government to waive all agricultural loans, irrespective of how much land the farmer owned. The state government had moved the apex court, asking it to restrict the loan waivers to small or marginal farmers who owned less than five acres of land.
The Tamil Nadu government declared a drought in the state after the India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that the northeast monsoon in 2016 was the worst in 140 years. Farmers allege that their crops were ruined in the drought and the subsequent Cyclone Vardah, and are still reeling under its adverse effects.
“We have no water left in our area. How are we to grow crops, if we don’t have water,” asked another farmer, R Krishnan, who owes around Rs 10.5 lakh in loans and co-owns 10.5 acres of farmland with his son.
The farmers, who have been braving the rains as they do not have tents this time and scouring for meals at the nearby gurdwara, are expected to meet peers from the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday.
“This time we will not leave until we have something concrete. We cannot go back. There isn’t much to go back to,” said P Ayyakannu, the state president of the National South Indian Rivers Inter-Linking Farmers Association, and the leader of the protesting farmers.