A farmers’ protest that enters the 900th day

New Year’s eve is a landmark day for Nargund protesters who have taken a pledge not to rest till the issue is resolved

December 30, 2017 11:14 pm | Updated 11:14 pm IST - DHARWAD

This New Year’s eve is of special significance to farmers of north Karnataka who are demanding an early solution to the Mahadayi water sharing row as their protest at Nargund in Gadag district enters the 900th day.

Perhaps it is one of the longest continuous agitations in the State’s recent history — it began on July 16, 2015, at the farmer’s martyr memorial here.

The farmers have taken a pledge not to rest until the issue has been taken to its logical end. Their only demand is to find the long-elusive settlement to the dispute with Goa and Maharashtra, and ensure an early execution of the Kalasa-Banduri diversion canal projects to divert 7.5 tmcft of water to the Malaprabha river. Farmers say they are orphaned by “both mother nature and by our own governments” — persistent drought, and no relief from the authorities for over two decades. Viresh Sobaradmath, head of the Karnataka Raitha Sena, which is leading the agitation, said, “The drought that followed the 2009 floods ruined farmers’ lives. The delay in announcing the award, and the lack of political will among politicians have left us in a helpless condition. We are left with no option but to resort to agitation.” The farmers say that the agitation would have ended early had Prime Minister Narendra Modi positively responded to their repeated requests to intervene and evolve an amicable solution through negotiations between the Chief Ministers of the three riparian states (Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra). “Though political leaders stand by the side of the farmers, they are more bothered about their vote bank rather than striving sincerely to resolve the issue using their good offices,” Mr. Sobaradmath said.

Recently, the issue assumed political significance after BJP State president B.S. Yeddyurappa spoke of holding talks with the Goa government and then giving “good news” to the farmers. But that promise failed to make any headway.

The failed attempt only provided another opportunity for the ruling Congress to ridicule the opposition BJP in general and Mr. Yeddyurappa in particular. The agitation but for a few incidents of violence, has has remained largely peaceful.

Historic place

Historically, Nargund has been the hotbed of farmers’ struggles and witnessed violent agitations earning it the sobriquet Bandayada Nela (the land of rebellion).

Farmers’ rebellion of 1980 over the government imposing betterment fees on farmers turned out to be a game changer in politics. Police opened fire on farmers resulting in five deaths. The outcome was the formation of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and the Janata Party succeeding to dethrone the Congress for the first time in the 1983 Assembly elections.

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