Farmers and activists marching to SP office in Salem. Image courtesy: AIKS Facebook page
Amidst continuing the crackdown on the protesters in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK government in the state has now turned against the people who are protesting against the forceful land acquisition for the Chennai-Salem Greenfield Highway project. The farmers and villagers from the project affected areas who have gathered in Salem under the banner of Joint Action Committee against green corridor have been subjected to police attacks consecutively for two days.
On Wednesday, more than 25 farmers along with farmers’ leaders were arrested. Ahead of a public meeting floated by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the police arrested Tiruvannamalai district President of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, Venkatesh, one of the key members of the Joint Action Committee, and vice president Balaraman. The police have denied the permission to hold the meeting too. The meeting was supposed to be attended by the AIKS Joint Secretary Vijoo Krishnan, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam Secretary P. Shanmugam, Tamil Nadu Tribal Association President and Ex MLA Delli along with the farmers from affected districts.
The 277 km long Chennai-Salem Greenfield corridor, an ambitious project of the central and state governments, under the Bharatmala Pariyojana Scheme, cut across five districts in the state including Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts.
Threatening the livelihood of people, the Rs 10,000 crore road project passes through 159 villages in the project affected districts. “Several hectares of agricultural land, eight hills, hundreds of wells, ponds & streams to be acquired & thousands of trees to be cut down for "Green" Corridor. Many schools, Anganwadis, primary health centres, residences and religious places also threatened. No adherence to 2013 Land Act,” AIKS said in a statement.
Following the random arrest of environmentalists, activists, and farmers, the villagers and farmers have marched to the SP office on Wednesday demanding the release of the people and were able to secure their release. Building the solidarity among various sectors, the farmers from all the five project affected districts will observe June 26 as a Black Day. On July 6, the farmers will gather at the District Collectorates and burn the Government Order.
“Whoever talks against the project, the government takes actions to shut their mouth and it is an undeclared emergency. We will continue the struggle,” said Vijoo Krishnan of AIKS.
Earlier on Tuesday, more than 20 people, including farmers, student activist Valarmathi and others were arrested in Salem for protesting against the proposed eight line road project. Apart from this, the police arrested environmental activist Piyush Manush on Monday and actor Mansoor Ali Khan on Sunday.
Condemning the action of the state, DMK working president MK Stalin said that the police were searching houses and threatening people in Salem and Thoothukudi. “The protesters include farmers, women and youth,” said Stalin. “We have been opposing such searches. If searches don’t stop, the DMK will start a statewide protest against the police,” he added.