Chennai, Nov 17 (PTI) AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami on Friday demanded that the Tamil Nadu government revoke the detention of seven farmers under the Goondas Act for protesting against the Melma SIPCOT project in Tiruvannamalai district on November 4, even as the state government said the farmers were being instigated to agitate against the project. Claiming that "outsiders," some from as far as Krishnagiri district in the state, took part in the marathon agitation being held for the past 125 days, Minister for Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports, E V Velu said the government's intention was to ensure jobs to the educated and the youth in the district.
Also, he assured to take up with Chief Minister M K Stalin the case of dropping the Goondas Act invoked against seven farmers.
The farmers had staged a peaceful protest expressing their resentment against the taking over of about 3,300 acres of agriculture lands for the SIPCOT project at Cheyyar taluk in Tiruvannamalai district, Palaniswami said and warned of protests by the AIADMK if the government did not withdraw the Act and free the ryots.
Seven farmers were detained under the Goondas Act while 15 other farmers and activists were arrested for staging the protest. The Tiruvannamalai district administration had then stated that the seven farmers had conducted themselves "prejudicial to public order and equality." Farmers in the district have been protesting against the proposed industrial estate expansion project, as it envisaged the acquisition of farmlands in 9 panchayats, Palaniswami said in a statement here. His party extended support to the farmers on the issue, and held a massive protest on October 4.
"The DMK government registered a series of cases against the youth and farmers in order to discourage them from participating in the protest and to suppress their agitation," the former chief minister alleged in the statement.
Cases were registered against farmers who had no previous record, and seven farmers were detained under the Goondas Act, he said.
"Areas like the Melma Koot Road and Koolamanthal look like a battlefield. To be specific, this government is trying to control the farmers' protest by putting up barricades and cordoning off the area with barbed wire fences as placed on the India-Pakistan border," the AIADMK leader alleged.
He recalled that during his tenure, he had not only allowed protests but also fulfilled the just demands of the ryots.
"The DMK government should immediately withdraw the Goondas Act invoked against 7 farmers. Otherwise, I warn that the AIADMK will hold protests in support of the farmers to ensure their safety," Palaniswami said.
Speaking to reporters in Tiruvannamalai, Velu said the state government was compensating the farmers two-and-a-half times over the market price for the lands given to the project.
"Tiruvannamalai is agrarian in nature and there's no major industry in the district. Jobs can be provided to the youth and graduates only through industrial projects," the Minister contended.
He claimed the farmers of the district were being misled to agitate.
"The families of seven farmers have petitioned me to secure their release," Velu said, waving a bunch of papers. "In their petition, they said their kin have been misguided by false propaganda to agitate," the Minister said and assured to take up their case with the Chief Minister.
He slammed the AIADMK general secretary for taking up the issue and said during his tenure as Chief Minister Palaniswami attempted to acquire land for SIPCOT. "Now he is raising the issue for the sake of politics," Velu added. PTI JSP SS JSP SS