Protesting Indian farmers stand in chest-deep water for 11 days

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Farmers in central India continued Tuesday to stand in murky, chest-deep water for the 11th straight day in an unconventional protest over a land dispute.

Around 30 farmers have vowed to keep up their protest by standing in their fields which have been inundated with water by a nearby dam in Madhya Pradesh state, despite concerns over their health.

"I will not move out of the water even if I die. I am standing on my land, which has been turned into a lake. The government has cheated us," Raja Ram, one of the farmers, told AFP.

"We want the water level to be decreased immediately and the return of our land," Ram said in Khandwa district, 300 kilometres from state capital Bhopal.

Television footage showed the group of men and sari-clad women looking miserable as they held up banners against the state government's decision to buy their land on the Narmada river for a dam.

Some of the protesters have developed skin infections and a few are running high fevers, according to an activist involved in the protest.

"Their skin is peeling off and wounds have appeared on their body parts," Chittaroopa Palit told AFP.

The government bought thousands of hectares of fertile land from mostly tribal communities to build a dam in 2007. But hundreds of farmers have since returned to their fields which have become a catchment area for the dam, saying compensation packages were inadequate.

So-called water protests are not uncommon in the world's largest democracy along with hunger strikes and other forms of agitation for a myriad of causes including land disputes.