Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy has said that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) had no right to dictate terms to farmers as to what crop they should cultivate in their own farm lands.

Mr. Chandy was inaugurating a march towards the Kaniyal North padasekharam in Palamel panchayat near Charummoodu on the border of the district here on Tuesday, where CPI(M) activists allegedly cut down over 3,000 rubber saplings on October 11. The saplings were cut down by the activists, insisting that the eight farmers there should instead cultivate paddy on the 7.5 acre-padasekharam.

The face-off between the CPI(M) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) on the issue and the UDF’s announcement that it would lead a march to the field and re-plant the saplings on Tuesday led to the District Collector issuing curfew orders in the Palamel panchayat from Monday midnight.

Accusing the Collector and the police of acting like puppets of the CPI(M) and thereby denying the farmers their right to cultivate, Mr. Chandy said the UDF protest was not political in any manner, but one for justice and against lawlessness since the police was yet to arrest a single person involved in the act of cutting down the saplings nearly two months back.

Pointing out that the farmers had resorted to rubber plantation since the 7.5 acre extent of land was rendered unfit for paddy cultivation by nature over the years, Mr. Chandy accused the CPI(M) of covertly forcing the farmers to sell the land to the real estate mafia.

“It is very clear that if they are forced to cultivate paddy there, they will suffer losses and in turn, be forced to sell the land. That is what the CPI(M) wants,” he said.

The UDF march was blocked by the police a few kilometers from where Mr. Chandy flagged it off. The protesters, who included A.A. Shukoor, M. Murali, K.K. Shaju, Adoor Prakash, Joseph M. Puthussery and C.F. Thomas, MLAs, UDF district chairman C.R. Jayaprakash and DCC vice-president Koshy M. Koshy among others, raised slogans for a while before dispersing.

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