Every day for the last one year, residents of Vemulaghat village in Telangana‚Äôs Siddipet district have been on a relay hunger strike. At 10am, five or six people gather under a large tent, and sit on a hunger strike until 5pm.
Each day, the protesters are different. But their goal is the same: To demand proper compensation for their land which the Telangana government wants to take away for the Mallanasagar reservoir project.
How it started
The Mallanasagar reservoir is a pet-scheme of the Telangana government, and had faced stiff opposition from several villages in the submergence zone, with farmers and locals refusing to give up their land.
More than a year later, Vemulaghat is the lone village that has stuck to its decision of not giving up their land for the construction.
On June 4, 2016, a group of villagers began the protest, by sitting down under a large tent outside the Gram Panchayat and marking a day-long 'deeksha' or protest.
And since then, men and women from the village have been taking turns to participate in the fast, despite all odds. In fact, for two months between July and September 2016, Section 144 was also in place at Vemulaghat.
365 days later
To mark their protest turning one, villagers held a big program at the protest site, which is surrounded with posters demanding justice.
The entire village gathered at the spot on Sunday morning, and so did activists and some workers of political parties.
Nine women from the village undertook the relay hunger strike on Sunday.
One of the prominent faces present at the event was lawyer Rachana Reddy, who has taken up the case against the project in court.
She gained prominence, ever since Telangana Chief Minister singled her out during an Assembly session, and accused her bitterly of ‚Äúspeaking blatant lies in court.‚ÄĚ
GO vs Land Acquisition Act
Interestingly, despite the scale of the protest and the amount of support it has received, the villagers are willing to give their land, and have only one demand. They refuse to part with their land under Government Order (GO) 123, and insist on compensation according to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
The Telangana government had issued the GO last year, and assured locals that it paid more than the 2013 Act, and was faster at disbursing compensation and rehabilitation. However, locals refuted these claims, and after a long legal battle, the HC ruled that the state had no power to acquire large tracts of land for construction of irrigation projects under GO 123.
Speaking to TNM, Hayatuddin, a local resident, said, "Today's event is just to mark the completion of one year. Our fight is not over yet, and it will continue even after this."