Mainstream media overlooked farmers’ protests in South India: Farmers’ leaders

Following the Attorney General’s discouraging comment last month, southern farmers participated in the Feb 6 chakka jam. Yet the media gave next to no coverage to these events. 


Despite the low media coverage, southern farmers responded enthusiastically to the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha’s (SKM) call for nationwide chakka jam on February 6, 2021. Farmers, especially in the south, circulated a flood of pictures where people demonstrated out on the streets to decry the three laws of the government.



Tamil Nadu farmers observed road roko campaigns at the taluka level with nearly 150 people participating in the capital city protests. Meanwhile, Kerala undertook demonstrations at the panchayat-level in thousands of regions of the state. Across India, farmer leaders were detained including in southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.




Yet the mainstream narrative has remained the same: “scattered demonstrations” barring northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, as described by the Times of India.

Mainstream media and southern protests

“There is a general media trend that southern events, especially Tamil Nadu events, do not get proper coverage,” said All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) State Convener K. Balakrishnan while rifling through records of farmers protest that took place in 2020.

Southern farmer leaders had fumed in January 2021, against Attorney General K. K. Venugopal commented about southern states’ support for the three farm laws during a Supreme Court hearing.

Balakrishnan condemned Venugopal’s claim while listing a slew of dates when Tamil Nadu farmers had assembled to protest against the laws at the district-level. He emphasised that the state observed its first protest on June 5, 2020 long before Punjab farmers began their agitations.

“Local farmers and protesters observed a two-day strike followed by a general body meeting on June 15, 2020. Later on July 26 and July 27, we hoisted black flags throughout rural areas of Tamil Nadu and collected the signature of 7-8 lakh people who opposed the then Bills. All this we did during the coronavirus lockdown,” he said.

The AIKSCC sent these signatures to the Prime Minister’s Office on September 10, 2020. However, it received no response. “Who will give a response?” laughed Balakrishnan, who nonetheless considered the campaign a success in raising awareness among Tamil Nadu farmers.

Farmers continued to agitate in the state with monthly protests such as road roko campaigns on September 21 wherein 12,000 people were arrested; call for Gram Sabha meetings on October 2, 2020 to discuss the three laws; response to the all-India call for protests on November 5 with youth participants organising protests outside passport offices.

“There are massive agitations throughout Tamil Nadu. The only problem is that we are not in a position to travel to Delhi. The Tamil Nadu government continues to suppress us. Even so people are slowly travelling towards the capital city,” he said.

December saw even more intense protests by farmers in opposition of protests.

Protest Dates

Event Description                                                      

November 26-28, 2020

Rail roko campaigns at 500 places with trade union workers in response to Delhi Chalo call. Thousands of people were arrested.

December 2, 2020

Sloganeering and demonstrations at various district headquarters from morning till evening.

December 5, 2020

Demonstrations to ban all Ambani and Adani products. Many people arrested.

December 8, 2020

Pan-Tamil Nadu response to Bharat Bandh call. Trade unions offer their support by closing shops in solidarity with farmers.

December 14-16, 2020

Indefinite sit-in protests in over 1000 places in the state.

December 18, 2020

Political parties such as DMK called for a one-day hunger strike. 5,000 to 6,000 people attended the event.

December 20, 2020

Farmers honoured the movement’s martyrs in small villages by putting up posters of the then 26 martyrs.

December 29, 2020

Public meeting at Thanjavur which received a mass response. State police curtailed transport despite prior permission. Leaders were also put under house arrest.

January 1, 2021

Protest in response to all-India call for continued boycotting of Adani-Ambani products. According to leaders, the message had percolated to ground-level.

January 6, 2021

Indefinite struggle against the three laws at Chennai.

January 23-26, 2021

District leaders laid siege in Raj Bhawan

February 6, 2021

Road roko protests in various regions with mass protests in Chennai.

Yet, Balakrishnan “lamented” about the inadequate coverage by local media despite the emotional investment of the people.

Have southern protests received due coverage in the past?

As it turns out, southern states have an unfortunate history of missing the limelight of mainstream Indian media. In 2017, Tamil Nadu farmers travelled to Delhi to demand drought relief funds and pensions for old farmers following the poor rainfall. Protesters rolled prostrate on the street at Jantar Mantar, staged suicides, conducted mock funerals, shaved off half their moustaches and beards, stripped in front of the Prime Minister’s office, ate dal and rice off the road, stood with mice in their mouths and hung skulls, allegedly of farmers who died by suicide, around their necks. As a last resort, farmers allegedly ate their own excreta. Yet the protests had received minimal coverage by the media.

As a daily newspaper photographer explained at the time, “My editors don’t want to write about the issue, they just want dramatic photographs.”

Even nowadays, southern states face the same problem. The Kerala government passed a resolution in its Assembly against the three farm laws in 2020. According to All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Finance Secretary P. Krishna Prasad, state farmers burnt copies of the three farm Ordinances on June 5, 2020 on the call of the AIKS. Protesters also conducted a ‘jail bharo andolan’ on August 9, 2020.

Protest Dates

Event Description

June 5, 2020

On the call of the AIKS, state farmers burnt copies of the three Ordinances.

August 9, 2020

Farmers engaged in a jail bharo andolan.

September 23, 2020

In response to the all-India call, farmers demonstrated in various parts of Kerala.

December 11, 2020

Indefinite struggle at Thiruvananthapuram.

December 29, 2020

Peasants boycotted Adani-Ambani products, sent thousands of farmers to Delhi and celebrated State Assembly’s resolution against the laws.

January 23-25, 2021

Farmers engaged in a three-day Mahapadav in front of Raj Bhawan.

January 26, 2021

Tractor parades were observed in various districts.

February 6, 2021

Farmers observed demonstrations to support the pan-Indian chakka jam.

However, southern protests are still considered ‘lukewarm’ by many people in mainstream media.

“It is irresponsible of the AG, who works for the Government of India, to say such things especially considering the strong feelings of people here. Kerala protests are being ignored and at the same time, we are asked to prove our participation by listing protests in the state,” he said.

As activist and poet Meena Kandaswamy said during a virtual conference in August 2020, “the cowbelt narrative removes the South from the larger narrative.” She pointed out that right-wing elements particularly treat Tamil Nadu in such a manner because Brahminical fascism is greatly opposed there. Accordingly, she encouraged people to look beyond the “English-speaking cowbelt mainstream” and look at other forms of media as well.

SabrangIndia previously discussed many regional news houses that have responsibly covered the farmers’ protest so far. Even Krishnaprasad agreed that many local papers have covered the agitations in Kerala. However, he still condemned larger media houses for their “anti-poor and biased” approach.

“This struggle has moved all of India. It is bigger than the Jayaprakash movement. People will change this government in a peaceful manner. And it will be peaceful,” said Krishnaprasad.


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Karnataka and Kerala farmers come together to intensify struggle

Karnataka: Youth groups visit villages to spread awareness about anti-farmer laws

Regional media does justice to Bharat bandh coverage

The theatre of protest: Tamil Nadu farmers have got attention, but will they get results?



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