41 days after they began a protest that had the nation watching in equal measures of awe and horror, Tamil Nadu farmers have decided to temporarily suspend the agitation. They have however warned off further protests from May 25 if their demands are not met with by the Centre.
This decision comes after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami spent over an hour with the farmers on Sunday morning. The Chief Minister had promised to take up the demands laid out by protesters to the Prime Minister. In addition to this, he requested the farmers to call of their protests.
"After 41 days of protest at Jantar Mantar where we ate, slept and lived on these roads, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister met us today," said Iyyakannu, the Tamil Nadu chief of the Desiya Thenidhiya Nathigal Inaippu Vivasayigal Sangam . "He has told us that irrespective of whether the Centre pays heed to our demands, the state will help us. Keeping this promise in mind, we temporarily suspend these protests," he added.
The farmer leader, who went as far as leading agitators to drink urine, however claims that this is not the end of this demonstration. "Minister Pon Radhakrishanan and several other opposition leaders have been requesting us to stop protests. In respect of their words and promises we are stopping now. But if our demands are not met by May 25, protests will begin again," said Iyyakannu.
From holding skulls in their hands and snakes in their mouth to running nude in the South Block, these farmers have made their desperation evident in the last month. According to sources, several of them have already decided to leave the capital on Sunday night and others will follow in the next few days.
A group of these farmers began these alarming forms of protest in Trichyin December, where they held dead rats in their mouths. The farmers, owing allegiance to the Desiya Thennidiya Nadhigal Inaippu Sangam had claimed that they were pushed to poverty because the drought had destroyed their crop. While their protests outside the Collectorate shook the system, it did not lead to the results they desired.
Unhappy with a compensation of only Rs 3000 provided by the state, these farmers decided to pursue the matter with the Centre. Arriving in Delhi on March 13, over 80 farmers protested with the skulls of agriculturalists, who had committed suicide. Following this, several political leaders from DMK, PMK, MDMK and even the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi met these farmers at Jantar Mantar, where their agitation continued.
While several promises were made, there was little or no measures taken to meet their demands. They have been demanding river interlinking, formation of the Cauvery board, pension of Rs. 5000 for farmers above the age of 60 and waiver of loans by banks and finance companies. They even met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee but despite the numerous petitions, the Centre has failed to respond to their demands.
Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu infact categorically stated at the sidelines of an event in Chennai on Sunday that the centre will not pay the additional Rs.39,000 crore demanded by the state as drought relief.