Politics splits farmers’ who opposed Green Corridor

Politics splits farmers’ who opposed Green Corridor

Under the shadow of a large tree, students are playing and talking about what they had for breakfast at this school in Ramalingapuram village, 20 kms from this Salem.

This government school was set be brought down for construction of a eight-way lane between Salem and Tami Nadu. But the students can continue playing in this campus for a while longer, thanks to the Madras High Court order that quashed the land acquisition process for the controversial eight-way highway.

The school, whose first building was inaugurated in 1964, functions from two campuses – the new building for classes six to tenth, was inaugurated just a few months ago.

“We are quite happy that the project has been scrapped, for the simple reason that it passes through the middle of farm lands. Hope the government complies by this order and does not go for an appeal after the elections are over,” 74-year-old Kuppusamy, a village elder whose 8-acre land was to be acquired, told DH. Around 300 families in Kuppusamy's village would have been affected by the highway.

Though Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has promised to comply with the court order, Sivagami, one of the women who was arrested for protesting against the project, said they are not willing to believe the government’s words.

“How can we forget atrocities on us by the police during the protests? If the Chief Minister is really serious and cares about farmers, why didn’t he scrap the project before elections? He has made an announcement only after the court struck down the proceedings. We are against him,” she said.

However, the Lok Sabha election and the politics have split the farmers in all five districts of Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Salem, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri.

Campaign against AIADMK

The villagers have launched a campaign against the AIADMK alliance and are asking farmers to vote for the DMK alliance in the Lok Sabha election - the village falls under Kallakurichi Lok Sabha seat, but the Movement Against Eight-Way Lane has stopped shorting of announcing support to anyone but appealing people to vote against the AIADMK-BJP alliance.

“We are not bothered about who wins the election. But we don’t want the AIAMK-BJP alliance since they were responsible for conceiving the project in the first place,” Arul Arumugam, who leads an organisation protesting the highway, told DH. He said they have distributed pamphlets in all five districts asking people not to vote for the AIADMK-BJP alliance in their constituencies.

However, Chandra Kumar who was the convenor of the protests in Dharmapuri district, says they have decided to support PMK nominee Anbumani Ramadoss in the Lok Sabha seat. Chandra Kumar told DH that Anbumani did not withdraw the case after his party aligned with AIADMK for the elections, which shows his commitment.

“So, there is nothing to protest against PMK which stood by farmers through the agitation. Anbumani visited so many villages and he has filed now a caveat in the Supreme Court seeking to be heard even if the state government goes for an appeal against the High Court order. This is the reason why we support Anbumani,” Chandra Kumar said.   

S Narayanan of Kuppanur village, who was also arrested during the protests, has a different view. He said since voting is a fundamental and personal right of every citizen, they are not giving instructions to any farmers.

“But we are asking farmers to think deep whether they should vote for a new party this time since both AIADMK and DMK seem to be the same. There are several other options like Naam Tamizhar, Makkal Needhi Maiam of actor Kamal Haasan and farmers’ party,” he said.

Mohana Sundaram, a farmer from Pulaveri in Salem district and one of the petitioners in the case against the project, said they will vote against the AIADMK-BJP alliance to display their anger against the state government that attempted to snatch their land. 

“We are asking farmers not to vote for the AIADMK alliance. But we are not asking them to vote for any particular party either. We just want to show our protest to the governments of the day,” he said.

Farmers were up in arms, since they were of the view that the expressway is not needed since there are three highways that connect Salem with Chennai. They had asked the government to widen the existing highway and develop them, instead of laying a brand-new road.

Despite vociferous opposition from farmers, the NHAI and district administration went ahead with acquiring land, often by coercing farmers. The protests triggered tense moments in many areas, with several farmers attempting self-immolation.