Opposition accuses CPI-M of another Nandigram as farmers continue protest over land for highway project in Kerala
A section of farmers are opposing a proposed national highway 17 bypass in Keezhattur village, saying it will destroy 250 acres of paddy fields, leave many homeless and destroy wetlands.india Updated: Mar 22, 2018 20:10 IST
The opposition slammed Kerala’s CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government on Thursday over its stand-off with farmers in Kannur district over land acquisition for a road project, reminding it of violence in West Bengal’s Nandigram in similar circumstances during Left rule.
A section of farmers are opposing a proposed national highway 17 bypass in Keezhattur village, saying it will destroy 250 acres of paddy fields, leave many homeless and destroy wetlands.
The farmers want a realignment of the road, but the government has rejected their demand. Incidentally, some of the farmers opposing the project claim they are CPI(M) supporters.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the government should forego ego and talk to the protesting farmers. “The CPI(M) is trying to enact another Nandigram in Kerala,” said Chennithala, leader of the opposition in the assembly.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too mounted pressure on the CPI(M), sending a delegation to meet Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan in Delhi and demand an ecological study of the area. “Sad that proletarian party leaders are talking like big corporates. We will try our best to help farmers,” said state BJP unit president Kummanam Rajasekharan.
The CPI(M), however, said the development project could not be stalled. “You can’t browbeat us citing Nandigram,” said CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. As many as 14 people died in police firing on March 14, 2007 at Nandigram, where villagers were resisting land acquisition for a project. Nandigram became a massive poll plank in the 2011 Bengal assembly elections in which Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress trounced the CPI(M), which had been in power for 34 years.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said 56 people had given their land for the highway project and only four persons were opposing it.
The CPI(M) faced severe criticism last week after the agitating farmers alleged that the party’s activists set their tents on fire. The farmers are agitating under a group they have named ‘Vayalkilikkal’ (sparrows).
State public works department minister G Sudhakaran, however, dubbed the group as “vultures” in the assembly on Wednesday.
Suresh Keezhattur, leader of the ‘Vayalkilikkal’ movement, said, “Our struggle is to protect paddy fields that shrink alarmingly. We are not against development. The road alignment can be changed easily.” Suresh, a former branch secretary of the CPI(M), alleged that the party’s activists attacked his house two days ago.
The protesters alleged that farmers who gave their land for the project did so under pressure from CPI(M) activists.
The protest is fast taking the shape of a mass movement and several environmental activists have pledged their support to the farmers.
The CPI(M) has announced a “mass march” on Saturday to “expose those stalling development projects”.