Southern discomfort

Farmers from faraway states like Tamil Nadu are making their way to Delhi carrying their own sense of grievance against the government

As farmers’ protest against farm reform laws continue, a steady trickle of farmers from southern states are joining the protesting farmers in Delhi. On 6 December, a group of farmers from Tamil Nadu joined the protest at Singhu border. They claimed that many are following them in the coming days.

“Around 300 farmers booked tickets to march toward Delhi on November 24, the cost of the ticket was Rs 970. But Tiruchirapalli district police stopped us, and cancelled our ticket, they told us that due to Coronavirus mass gathering is not allowed. And the amount returned for our cancelled ticket was Rs 410, that means each farmer lost Rs 560 on the ticket, which is very high for a farmer,” said Prakash Chidambaram, a farmer and a member of National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturist Association. “On 4th December we purchased 50 tickets, but we were again detained at Tiruchirapalli Station. A few of us somehow managed to escape by telling the police that we are going for a religious function,” he adds.

Farmers are joining the protest from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh to Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu. However, the numbers of farmers from distant states are less. “The protest is happening during a pandemic situation when there are a lot of restrictions in place. When we got to know that farmers of Haryana and Punjab are marching toward Delhi, we wanted to join but we were not allowed to go to Delhi. Our leaders were arrested,” said a farmer.

Chidambaram compared new farm laws with the Sugar Mill Act, “There was a similar situation with the Sugar Mill Act where, for dispute redressal in a contract, we had to go to the DM.” District Magistrates, he thinks, serves the interest of the “people in power” and not farmers. “That is why, the Sugar Mill Act faced huge protest in Tamil Nadu, as companies were not paying farmers,” he said.

(Cover: Prakash Chidamabaram, in the centre along with farmers from Tamil Nadu)

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