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300 Days of Nightmare: How Amaravati Farmers’ Fight could be for long haul

It started on one fine day when the people of Andhra Pradesh thought their fate had turned around. With hope and optimism, they chose Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party’s supremo, as their Chief Minister in 2014. 

From giving hope to hopeless and headless state, Chandrababu Naidu and his government along with people’s choice, decided to choose Amaravati as the capital of Andhra Pradesh. An official statement and resolution was passed and every party agreed to it on the floor of the AP Legislative Assembly. Given its rich history, multi-cultural appeal and its equal distance from all the regions of the state, Amaravati looked like the perfect choice. 

Farmers in the capital region rejoiced and came forward to voluntarily give lands to the government for developing their capital. As a new state with growing ambitions, Chandrababu Naidu attracted investors from across the world and promised them assured returns if they believed in the people of the state. 

As promised, investors lined up and brought jobs to locals. Following the early adapters, the world began noticing the small state of Andhra Pradesh that was still reeling under a fiscal deficit and lack of massive resources. Yet, there was something magical and promising about this potential state. It brought the world to its people. 

From bringing Singapore to do the master plan and partly developing the capital region to bringing foreign investors and businesses into the state, it transformed the state and put it on a fast-track to growth. Constructions and new roads were a common sight in the state between 2014 and 2019 April. Everything seemed like it was progressing, including its people -- welfare and development were equally balanced. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction. 

Then came an election — an election where millions of voters’ names were deleted from the lists, voting machines turned out faulty, sending several voters home. Amidst the hullabaloo of a not-so-satisfying and allegedly faulty election, the state’s people elected a leader who promised to change the fate of the state. 

Everyone fell for the spell. The spell was so magical on the people of Andhra Pradesh that Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy as its Chief Minister began transforming the state. First, investments began leaving the state, then Singapore and international institutions like the World Bank didn’t want to invest in the state. Later, jobs disappeared and factories were shut. 
Meanwhile, the leader who promised change, initiated it. Only that the change was unexpected and damaging to the state.

First, he decided that his government will have three capitals. That meant, Amaravati would just be a legislative capital while Vizag would be the executive capital and Kurnool a judicial capital. As exciting as this idea of capital trifurcation sounded in the beginning, it was the beginning of the state’s crumbling fortunes, one blow at a time. 

Amaravati farmers who gave their lands were up in arms against the Jagan government. Their lands gone, their produce gone. How does one react to such a massive blow where one put in their everything, including their kids’ own futures? This brought them agony. From agony came their determination to fight the government that was being unjust to them, with an overnight flippant decision by a leader who cannot think. 

They took to the streets. Shouted ear to ear, marching against the government, demanding that the state have only one capital. Several farmers lost their lives and several kids, their future. Yet, it has been 300 days and their fight continues. As lawlessness and police brutality takes over the state with religious disturbances, atrocities against lower castes and conversions to Christianity ruling this regime, it remains to be seen how the country will respond to a Chief Minister who has been more of a despot than leader. 

Will the Judiciary hear the farmers’ cries or will they continue fighting for the state and its capital? Or will the state’s people go blind and let this pass as just another protest? Only the people of Andhra Pradesh can decide their fate and their future. The power is vested in them - their voice and their vote! 

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