THE SKULL PROTEST: HOW THE FARMERS IN DELHI MANAGED TO GET THE MEDIA'S ATTENTION
We are all aware that a group of about 100 farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting in Delhi for a month now, to get the government to meet their various demands, which include a Rs 40,000 central drought relief fund and pensions for old farmers who can no longer tend to their fields. In its essence it is the longest continuous demonstration in recent times and is organized under the protection of police and the consent of the state. It is contained and unlikely to descend into chaos, One thing that cannot go unnoticed is the extent to which these people are ready to go, to capture the media and the public's attention- the agitators are , however, well aware that their protest has to be suitably dramatic for media consumption.
The leader, P Ayyakannu sets the benchmark by chanting “If they put us on the train back to Tamil Nadu, we will pull the chain. If they beat us, we will jump off the train. We will stay here till our demands are met or we die.” That's just the beginning. They have come heavily prepared with props, skulls and mice and snakes, and have been pulling off one desperate act after another, almost daily. The sheer amount of theatricality and drama ranges from bizarre to spine chillingly shocking. The farmers started off with eating dal and rice off the streets. Then they moved on to perform angapradakshinam – rolling prostrate- on the street at Jantar Mantar . Things began to heat up when they staged suicides and conducted mock funerals. In the next act, they shaved off half their moustaches and beards. This still got no attention, they went extreme and stripped in front of the Prime Minister’s office, standing with mice in their mouths. And finally, things took a rather scary turn when they s hung human skulls around their necks, which they claim belong to farmers in their state who committed suicide because of mounting debt.
But we don't understand this- is the media just covering the drama and sensation? Has the original cause for protest been forgotten? As days pass and things are getting more and more disturbing, the actual motive behind this event is at the risk of being forgotten. Irrespective of whether that is indeed the case, by now, the protest has taken on farcical proportions. The performance seems to have become the point of it. To sum things up, a photographer from a daily newspaper who has been covering the farmers’ protest regularly, said: “My editors don’t want to write about the issue, they just want dramatic photographs.”. Let's hope that this is not what's going to happen.
-Aswitha Balaji Blogger NanSei Nilam