After 18 days of protest opposing the acquisition of agricultural land for a national highway project, the residents of Keezhattur of Thaliparamba have called off their relay hunger strike. The decision to call off the protest was taken after a discussion with the Kerala Public Works Minister, G Sudhakaran.
In the meeting, on Thursday, the minister promised them to freeze the government move to acquire their 250 acres of paddy field for the highway.
Minister Sudhakaran told the media that work for the national highway will still continue but they will decide how best to carry on the project without acquiring agricultural land.
“Only after the senior officials and party leaders visit the place, the notification will be published regarding this. Nobody will be hurt,” Minister added.
C Manoharan, one of the leaders of the agitation, told TNM that for the time being the notification for the highway construction has been temporarily withdrawn by the government. “The meeting was hopeful and positive. If they decide to re-notify the acquisition of paddy fields, we will start our agitation again,” he said.
Earlier, CPI (M) had disowned the protest saying that they did not support it, although all the protesters were CPI (M) party members.
“At any cost we will not give them the paddy field, these are our livelihood. We would die to protect it. But our protest was not against the party. Till death I will be a communist,” N Janaki, one of the leaders told TNM.
A few days earlier the BJP state chief Kummanam Rajashekharan had visited the village and had met the leaders. Following this, the minister had decided that land will not be acquired from the farmers.
Manoharan says that all the farmers, who own paddy fields, are unwilling to part with their land and every one of them is part of the protest.
“When this huge highway comes, not only our paddy fields but many small hills will also be flattened. Keezhattur is the only village in Thaliparamba with a huge area of paddy cultivation.” Manoharan said.