Farmers' protests not limited to Delhi: South Indian farmers oppose Union govt claim

The farmers opposed the Attorney General’s claim that Karnataka and Kerala farmers were accepting of the three farm laws.
Farmers in Karnataka
Farmers in Karnataka
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While the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of the three controversial farm laws, during the proceedings in the apex court, Attorney General KK Venugopal claimed twice that farmers in south India were amenable to the laws enacted. The Attorney General on Tuesday told the court, “As far as Karnataka, Kerala etc are concerned, there is huge support for these laws.”

The AG’s affidavit also indicated that the farmers’ protest was limited to only one part of the country. "The agitation being limited to only one place out of the whole country is witness to the fact that majority of farmers are not only happy with the legislations but are finding these legislations to be progressive and in their interest,” the AG’s preliminary affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court said. 

The AG’s statement, however, has drawn criticism from farmers in the southern states, who say that their agitation in December 2020 cannot be discounted. Besides, the Kerala Legislative Assembly even passed a resolution on December 31 seeking the Union government to withdraw the three farm laws, after farmers agitation.  

Protests in South India

Although the farmers’ protest in southern states has not been as big as the ones in Punjab and New Delhi, protests were held in various south Indian states and hundreds of farmers had mobilised to demand the rollback of the three farm laws. 

In December this year, protests by farmer groups were held in Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, opposition parties like DMK and CPI(M) organised a few of the protests.

In Karnataka, the farmers held massive protests in Bengaluru and 29 other districts in the state between December 9 and 14, 2020, when the Karnataka Legislative Assembly was holding its monsoon session. Hundreds of farmers held protest marches almost everyday, demanding that the three farm laws be rolled back. 

“In Karnataka big protests have happened. We protested every day when the Assembly session was held. We held protests across all districts. Since the ruling party is BJP, there is propaganda by the state government that farmers are accepting of the laws. It is not at all true that farmers in south India are accepting of these laws,” said Kodihalli Chandrashekar, President of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

“Unless the Union government issues a promise publicly, we cannot believe a word they say,” he added. 

In Telangana, protests took place in December 2020 by farmer groups. Left parties mobilised farmers and ensured information about farm laws and its impact reached them. In Andhra Pradesh, solidarity protests are being held regularly by CPI, CPIM, and Rythu Swarajya Vedika- a farmers association. 

“Since December, protests have increased in frequency and participation. There are regular meetings held at village, mandal and district level, to discuss the potential impact of the farm laws on Andhra farmers, and to express solidarity with the farmers protesting in Delhi. There is also a call to burn copies of farm laws in the Bhogi fire on Thursday,” Balu, Rythu Swarajya Vedika leader in Anakapalle.

In Tamil Nadu, the protests were sporadic and spread across the state, mostly organised by opposition parties including the DMK and CPI (M).

However, the state government expressed its support to the farm laws multiple times. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami spoke about it in Salem in the first week of December. Stating that the new laws ensure a pre-agreed price for the produce, the Chief Minister said while in states like Punjab, Assam and Haryana, farmers have to sell their produce only through agents, it is not so in Tamil Nadu. 

Speaking to TNM, T Shanmugam, the General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam said that the protests in Tamil Nadu have been lukewarm due to lack of awareness among the people and the lack of coordination. “We organised a bunch of protests since June last year, when these laws were brought in as ordinance. Our protests and opposition have been consistent. Even tomorrow, we have arranged for a protest in which copies of these laws will be burned during Bhogi celebrations across the state,” he said. 

A delegation of 500 farmers from Kerala left for Delhi on Monday by bus to join their counterparts at the borders of Delhi, who have been protesting against the contentious farm laws since November 26 last year.

The farmers with the Kerala Karshaka Sangham', the state chapter of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS affiliated to the CPI(M), one of the organisations at the forefront of the protest.

AIKS vice president S Ramachandra Pillai flagged off the bus, which is expected to reach Delhi on January 14. They would participate in the protest at Shahjahanpur, one of the venues.

Farmer representatives from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana have participated in the protests in New Delhi, owing to the pandemic and the risk of infection. 

With inputs from Theja Ram, Megha Kaveri, Janhavi and PTI

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