TN farmers shed clothes to have their voices heard

Protests in the capital turn nude to up the ante

News - India & You

Society

April 12, 2017

/ By / Kolkata



Farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Photo-PTI

Farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi (Photo: PTI)

In a protest that has been going on for almost a month now, farmers from Tamil Nadu have made several attempts, some rather unconventional, to have their voices heard, including undressing on the anniversary of Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha.

The drought-hit state of Tamil Nadu has seen its farmers incurring heavy losses and in a dire situation. With the worst drought in over a century, Tamil Nadu’s farmers have been seeking loan waivers and other reforms to ensure sustenance. Though, their various unique protests in the capital of the country, New Delhi, have largely failed to move the country’s ruling party to meet their demands. Even as some remedies have been offered, demands of the protesters are not adequately addressed, leading them now to strip outside the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s office to gain his attention, but to no avail.

The ongoing protest by farmers from Tamil Nadu, which began in the capital nearly a month ago, has been marked by a variety of demonstrations, including semi-nude rallies, with men in loin cloths and women in petticoats, rallies where the farmers carried dead snakes and dead rats as signifying their lack of food, a mock funeral and other things. These protests have so far seen a few political figures in solidarity through visit and words of support. The protesters are strongly demanding loan waivers, and even as their state government was instructed by the Madras High Court to write off all agricultural loans from cooperative banks, it was inadequate. The farmers are seeking loans from nationalised banks to also be written off. Even as the central government, last week, discussed releasing INR 17.12 billion for drought-hit state of Tamil Nadu, from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), it doesn’t meet the demand of INR 400 billion along with revised drought relief packages and the constitution of a Cauvery management board.

After a scheduled meet of a delegation of the farmers with Modi didn’t take place, the protesters stripped outside his office in North Block, New Delhi. This came after a week of a protest by these farmers, who were joined by others when they held skulls of farmers who had committed suicide in their region. Incidentally, the day also marked hundred years since Mahatma Gandhi had launched a movement of civil disobedience in Bihar’s Champaran. This satyagraha was held to voice and address farmers who operated under the oppressive system of indigo cultivation.

Nudity as protest

In times when traditional rallies are failing to make an impact as dissent, agitators around the world have taken to protesting with their clothes off as a way to get their voices heard. PETA protesters have, over time, engaged in nude rallies globally on several occasions to highlight cruelty towards animals; Greenpeace members held a nude protest at a glacier in the Swiss Alps to spark conversation on global warming. In some instances, there have been nude protests involving nudity as a statement in itself, with groups such as FEMEN staging topless protests to speak on gender discrimination.

The Mothers of Manipur, as they have come to be known, staged a protest in the northeastern state, clad in nothing but a banner stating ‘Indian Army Rape Us’. They were among the very few known to take the unclad path of demonstration in India to have their voices heard. As nudity remains yet an unexplored form of protest in India, one can only hope that it helps the cause of those agitating.

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