Stalin Revokes Goondas Act on 6 Protesting Farmers After Backlash
Seven Tamil Nadu farmers were booked under the state’s Goondas Act on Friday for protesting the expansion of the state-owned State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) in Melma village, near Cheyyar, in Tiruvannamalai district.
Later, chief minister MK Stalin revoked the district collector’s order on six of the farmers.The case filed against Arul Arumugam, coordinator of movement, was not revoked.
The government faced severe backlash for arresting farmers protesting the acquisition of their farmlands. Farmers organisations and political outfits strongly condemned the slapping of the Goondas Act against them.
“All the cases filed against the farmers should be withdrawn and all the farmers in jail should be released immediately. Further, the Tamil Nadu government should negotiate with the protesting farmers in a proper manner and take steps to find a solution,” Tamil Nadu Vivasaya Sangham secretarySami Natarajan told the media.
Similarly, state convener of Samyukta Kisan Morcha K Balakrishnan issued a statement demanding the immediate release of all the farmers without any conditions.
The government had acquired 3,174 acres of agricultural land in 11 panchayats, including Melma, for phase III of SIPCOT, which promotes industrial growth in the state.
Farmers organised under the Farmers Movement Against Melma SIPCOT called for an indefinite protest on July 2. The farmers set up a pandal and held a 124-day sit-in protest against setting up industries on agriculture land.
WHAT HAPPENED ON NOV 2?
Demanding that the state government abandon the Melma SIPCOT project, farmers took out a rally defying the police ban on November 2. They marched to the collector’s office to submit their Aadhaar, voter ID and PDS cards in protest, resulting in a scuffle when the police tried to stop them.
Subsequently, the farmers were detained in a marriage hall and released by evening. The farmers refused to leave the hall in protest, which continued even after electricity supply was switched off. The farmers left after submitting a petition with sub-collector R Anamika.
Meanwhile, the police removed the pandal. Eleven cases were registered against the farmers for protesting SIPCOT, taking out a rally in violation of the ban, damaging police vehicles and gathering at the collector’s office without permission.
Subsequently, 22 people, including coordinator Arumugam, were arrested on November 4 and sent to different state jails. Out of them, seven were booked under the Goondas Act.
Arumugam in Palayamkottai Jail, Devan in Coimbatore Jail, Cholan in Cuddalore Jail, Pachaiyappan in Madurai Jail, Tirumal in Trichy Jail and Masilamani and Pakiyaraj in Vellore Jail were issued arrest warrants under the Goondas Act.
STALIN SAYS ‘ONLY 7 ACRES FARMLAND’
After directing the withdrawal of the cases, Stalin said that only seven of the total 3,174 acres was farmland. Only 239 landowners of the total 1,881 had registered their objections, he added.
Stalin’s direction came after public works minister EV Velu forwarded the petitions submitted by members of families of the farmers with an assurance that they would not blindly oppose any government projects in the future. They said that the arrested farmers were instigated to hold protests by ‘outsiders’.
Stalin pointed out that the Cheyyar SIPCOT Phase I was set up on 645 acres and provided direct employment to 27,432 people and indirect employment to 75,000 people. Under Phase II, direct employment was provided to 31,645 people and indirect employment to one lakh people.
SIPCOTs have come up in various parts of Tamil Nadu promising employment, but localsat several sites have alleged that they have not gained much from these industries.
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