Farmers protest: Tamil Nadu's selective rage

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 12, 2017 16:53 hrs
Why Tamil Nadu farmers are staging a gory protest in Delhi

For nearly a month now, drought-affected farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

They stuck dead rats in their mouths.

They wore garlands of skulls.

They slit their palms.

They stripped off their clothes.

And yet, except for a few political leaders and forgotten actors dropping by for photo ops, and for the media eagerly sticking cameras in their faces and bodies and later strategically blurring out parts of these images of naked farmers rolling around on the heated roads of the Delhi summer, no one has taken any notice.

Where are the people who fought for the right to maim bulls in order to "save the culture" of Tamil Nadu?

Even as the protesters were aching to inflict cruelty on animals, the very people who were synonymous with that culture were committing suicide in droves. As far back as January, the National Human Rights Commission had sent a notice to the state government after media reports that more than a 100 farmers in the state had either died from illness or killed themselves in the wake of crop failure.

And now, even as they struggle for visibility in Delhi, life goes on as usual in their home state.

Madras, the epicentre of the protests for an exhibition of barbarism that is not held anywhere in the city, does not care about the farmers that supply its food.

There are no protests along the Marina.

There are no bikers in black clothes tearing around with banners.

There are no vanloads of people screaming in support of "culture".

There is no politician from the state holding the centre to ransom.

No one is even making an attempt to meet the leaders who matter, in order to find some way of providing the farmers a reprieve.

Every time the elections come round, the heads of various parties swear that the farmers are the lifeblood of the state, that they will waive agricultural loans, and that they will ensure water is provided for irrigation.

Yet, with the men in white having forgotten their promises, the farmers have made a journey to an alien state and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office themselves.

They have been asking for drought-relief packages, less than 18 months after they had asked for flood-relief packages.

In the aftermath of the floods of 2015, it was estimated that the state would have surplus water for the next two years.

But so poorly have things been mismanaged that the water table within the city has been depleted to such an extent that we would be lost without summer rains.

As for the villages, farmers have been falling nearly as fast as the crops.

Farmers have been committing suicide either from failure to pay back their usurers, or in the hope that their families will be given compensation.

And while the farmers have been trying to draw attention to the penury with which they live, the R K Nagar by-election has been cancelled by the Election Commission on charges of party factions bribing voters to entice them.

In an order published in their website, the Election Commission said:

"On the complaints of distribution of money, gift articles and violation of MCC, till 7.4.2017 an amount of Rs. 18,80,700/- was seized and 35 FIRs were registered. Apart from cash, various items such as lamps, T-Shirts, silver plates, Mobile phones and Sarees, which were used for distribution to workers were also seized."

To whom does the money being distributed illegally to voters belong?

If it belongs to the state, if it is the money collected from taxpayers, why is it not being channelled to provide relief for the farmers?

If it belongs to the politicians, why aren't they making legal donations to farmers' relief funds?

And why do the people of Tamil Nadu, who were so worried a couple of months ago about the livelihood of bull-owning farmers, care so little for crop-owning farmers?

Can't the funds that went into printing tens of thousands of customised T-shirts in support of jallikattu be mobilised to provide relief to farmers?

Can't the politicians who promised to skirt the Supreme Court's ban on the bloodsport be motivated to negotiate for a reprieve for the farmers?

Why does the selective rage to which the people of Tamil Nadu are so prone choose to ignore the farmers who are dying of deprivation in their homes and of dehydration in Delhi?

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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. 

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