In a meeting held on November 19, resolutions were passed by Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Federation, including calls for the withdrawal of cases against farmers protesting the Melma-SIPCOT project. The federation urged the government to revoke the Goondas Act imposed on farmer leader A Arul, also an environmental activist.
The federation appealed to Chief Minister M K Stalin to remove Minister E V Velu for divisive remarks and demanded the withdrawal of cases against farmers by the Tiruvannamalai district collector and police. They also called for abandoning projects requiring agricultural land acquisition.
Farmers in Melma and nearby villages have protested for over 120 days against the acquisition of 3,174 acres for the proposed SIPCOT phase III project at Cheyyar. Recent arrests, including the imposition of the Goondas Act, sparked public outcry, leading to Chief Minister Stalin’s order to revoke the act on six farmers.
Minister Velu defended the government’s intention to provide jobs, accusing “outsiders” of creating trouble. Allegations of coercion emerged as an old man denied government claims that protests were instigated by Arul, revealing a video where he asserts his son’s voluntary participation.
Anti-corruption watchdog Arappor Iyakkam demanded the release of farmers and shared a video contradicting government officials’ claims of instigation by Arul. The video features an old man denying coercion, stating his son participated willingly in the protest.
Chief Minister Stalin, in a statement, justifies invoking the Goondas Act initially, citing allegations of obstructing officials, disrupting public order, and preventing farmers from voluntarily parting with their land. Six of the seven detainees were released after family appeals.
இவர் தான் குண்டர் சட்டத்தில் கைது செய்யப்பட்ட விவசாயி தேவனின் தந்தை. அமைச்சர் #குண்டர்_சட்ட_வேலு பத்திரிக்கையாளர் சந்திப்பில் இவரை வைத்துக் கொண்டு தான் அருள் ஆறுமுகம் விவசாயிகளை அரசுக்கு எதிராக தூண்டியதாக விவசாயிகள் குடும்பம் சொன்னதாக பொய் சொல்லி நாடகம் நடத்தினார்.
— Arappor Iyakkam (@Arappor) November 19, 2023
Devan’s father denied that his son had supported the protest, while Devan’s wife, D Kalaiselvi, mentioned that some DMK members intimidated the family and coerced her father-in-law to speak against his son. In that video, Devan’s father said “Sir, I am Devan’s father speaking. Yesterday, around 2, 10 people from the DMK came to my house and called my daughter-in-law to come to the Taluk office and sign the papers. She was scared, and she said she wouldn’t go. So they called my wife, and she also refused to go. Then they forced me to go with them. I went and sat in the car, and they took me to Cheyyar. We went with MLA Jyothi. On the way, they asked to say this and that. I listened to everything and told the same to Minister Velu. I don’t know anything else. But no one instigated anything. Neither Arul nor anyone else instigated us on this. Arul didn’t call my son. My son went on his own.”
As allegations of coercion and manipulation come to light in the detained farmer’s family, the incident adds a new dimension to the already contentious SIPCOT project protests. The video raises questions about the methods employed by DMK members and underscores the complexity of the situation, further fueling demands for a thorough investigation and fair treatment of the protesting farmers.
The situation remains tense as farmers continue their struggle against land acquisition, prompting widespread support and calls for justice.