New Delhi: For over a month now, Delhi has been witnessing a bizarre protest at Jantar Mantar. The protesters, who are farmers from Tamil Nadu, have used strategies never heard before — from wearing skulls, eating mice, conducting mock funerals to even stripping at Raisina Hill. Adding to their eyeball popping agitation this week, a man dressed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi flogged the farmers with a whip.
The farmers said the idea was to show Centre’s ‘insensitivity’ to their plights. “By ignoring us, it is like Modi is whipping us and trying to beat us out of Delhi… Sometimes I think if we get arrested it might be better. Jail would be better than this,” said P Ayyakkannu, the state president of the National South-Indian Rivers Linking Farmers’ Association. At the outset, 25 farmers had volunteered to participate in the flogging, but soon after it began 23 of them backed out. One protester even reportedly fainted because of the pain. Prakash, who carried out the flogging wore one of the popular Modi masks and was dressed in the PM’s trademark jacket and kurta.
These farmers have been in Delhi for 37 days now and are in no mood to leave. Their protest is aimed at getting a relief package from the Centre and having their loans waved off as their crops were ruined in a severe drought and a subsequent cyclone. Their loans from cooperative banks have already been written off, under orders of the state government and the Madras High Court. They have also asked for revised drought packages, that would allow them to buy seeds for the next harvest cycle and also compensate their losses.
With he mercury going up in the Capital, the protests have also become more taxing. Ayyakkannu shows us the blisters on his thighs from the heat. “We are sleeping on hot tar while the PM sleeps in an air conditioned room…,” said Palanichamy, a farmer who has been at Jantar Mantar since the beginning of the protests.
The farmers claim that they have not been able to meet the Prime Minister. “This is how they are treating farmers; like slaves,” said Prakash, who used to work in marketing for rice products in Tamil Nadu, before coming over to join the farmers at Jantar Mantar.
The farmers have, though, met many political leaders, including finance minister Arun Jaitley, water resource minister Uma Bharti, home minister Rajnath Singh and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. However, Modi seems to be the one they want to meet. “Modiji, Modiji. Jantar Mantar aaoji,” rings across the protest grounds.
Meanwhile, they are not short of bizarre protest ideas yet. The next in line, is a literally ‘deranged’ act where they will try to showcase the impact of their current state. By wearing torn clothes and acting unstable they will depict how they have “lost their minds” in this long battle at Jantar Mantar.
—As published in HT