In, yet another victory for the Hindus in Tamil Nadu, 15 temple land plots in Chennai prime locality worth Rs. 150 crores have been recovered from encroachers.
Organizer magazine has been regularly reporting encroachment of temple properties and measures taken by various Hindu outfits and Court orders.
In 2018, Justice Mahadevan of Madras High Court has directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) department initiate appropriate efforts to retrieve the properties referring the statistics revealed that a few years ago there were 5.25 lakhs acres belonging to the temple/religious institutions in Tamil Nadu and only 4.78 lakhs acre exists now and the remaining nearly 50,000 acres of lands had been under illegal occupation.
On 21st January this year, Madras High Court has directed the HR and CE Commissioner and the state government work to together and draws a road map to recover ancient idols, jewellers and other artefacts reportedly missing from several temples in the state. Chief Justice Sanjib Bannerji and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy ordered filing of an affidavit within two weeks indicating steps proposed to be taken. The first bench said ancient temple idols are ‘national treasures’ that have to be protected and preserved. Petitioner R Venkataraman alleged that many unlisted temples under the HR and CE department have vanished or remain in a dilapidated condition with their main deity stolen. Lands owned by the temples had been lost. The missing, stolen or encroachments are not reported, complained and informed to the Commissioner of HR and CE. The petitioner alleged that the authorities are trying to come out with a new record by modifying the existence of such temple and lands owned by them”.
“There has been a tendency among the HR officials not to report or complain to the authorities reasons better known to them and also avoid exposing their wrongdoings. During the 60 plus years of Dravidian rule, the state witnessed systematic looting of temple funds, smuggling and selling rare idols, alienating temple properties, replacing imitation jewellery and articles by politicians and officials. Inspector General of Idol wing head AG Pon Manickavel (now retired) was not allowed to work despite Court backing. He did a commendable job of pursuing all the cases including closed ones, conducted probes to identify and retrieve stolen, smuggled and encroached temple treasures and properties ” VHP sources claimed.
Left with no option, HR and CE officials are making some efforts to recover the same now. On December 17 in Chennai, HR and CE officials recovered temple lands whose collective market value is over of Rs. 67 crore were retried from encroachers. The property is situated on the Greenways Road and at Nadukuppam in Chennai. While 11 grounds of land belong to Mylapore Kapaleeswarar Temple, three grounds and a 1,600 sq.ft plot are owned by Payandi Amman temple.
On 22nd January, 15 ground land worth 150 crores belonging to Nungambakkam Agatheeswarar Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal temple was reclaimed. The over 400 years old temple has properties worth several thousand crores. Following Court orders, properties bearing TS number 452/29, door no 181 measuring 15 grounds And 0259 sq.ft. were retried from late PD Srinivasan and his wife Sulochana. HR and CE zonal Joint Commissioner Haripriya told media persons, “Within three months from the date of registering a case order was issued. The eviction order has to be executed within a month. So we are now taking physical possession of encroached land. The Department vide its letter MP no. 06/2020/ A1 dated 16-12-2020 and Joint Commissioner’s notice 5142/2020-1/A1 dated 19-1-2020, we have taken action as per 78 of HR and CE act. Besides officials from HR and CE, police, Revenue in the presence of public joined in this eviction action. JC Haripriya and Assistant commissioner Kaveniga led and oversaw the eviction operations.” The lands have been handed over to the temple. The buildings were sealed.
In the encroached land, several commercial buildings, housing units were built and let out. It has been under illegal occupation for the past 30 years. People highly praised the HR and CE for prompt action in a record time. This should continue to recover all the encroached properties in the states belonging to various temples. Stern action has to be taken against them with jail term to avoid such recurrence in future. They said what the officials were doing nothing in all these 30 plus years.
Close on the heels of furore and protests over the presence of Christian cemetery in Tirunelveli, TN government has agreed to shift the same to some other place. Your weekly had reported a couple of years ago the protests to remove the cemetery in front of the Mani Moortheeswaran Uchishta Ganapathy temple. Hindu Munnani, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Indu Makkal Katchi were holding protests to remove the same. Indu Makkal Katch , allegedly, vandalized the cemetery last year and were booked under National Security Act (NSA). Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) had sent a legal notice to the Tirunelveli city police Commissioner Deepak Damoor and Dy. Commissioner (Law and Order) S. Saravanan in November last year.
In the notice, it said, “a plot of land belonging to the temple was illegally occupied by Sacred Heart Church which was claiming ownership and title over the land. The notice highlighted how the devotees who demanded action against the Church were illegally detained and slapped with NSA”. LRO had in 2019 August filed a complaint with Dy. Commissioner of Police demanding the removal of the illegal Christian cemetery on the temple land. Tirunelveli District administration in a reply claimed that the cemetery was in private land. However, it said that it had banned carrying out funeral at the controversial cemetery site.
Throwing the ban order, Christians went on burying the dead in the same Cemetery and over 50 graves had come up at the location. Last year Indu Makkal Katchi workers reportedly vandalized some graves. Christian pastors and DMK, VCK, left and DK cadres met the District Collector Mrs Shilpa Prabhakar Satish and demanded action against IMK cadre who demolished the graves at the cemetery. They have demanded action against them under the NSA provisions. Eight IMK cadres were put behind bars at Nanguneri sub-jail. Seven of them have been released on bail after removing charges under NSA while one is still in jail. The district collector who refused to meet representatives from Hindu outfits citing pandemic lockdown norms, met the Christian delegation in person at his office and notably, none were using masks and maintained social distancing norms. Now the TN government has agreed to shift the controversial cemetery to another place.
Yet another bid to build a church in a village where Hindus are the majority in number was foiled. In Tirunelveli district at Nadupillaiyar Kulam village, despite, Christian pastor, who had promised not to carry out any construction work, has been constructing a compound wall. Villagers said this was against the assurance given by the Church people not to build a Church. Villagers said this is an illegal construction and wanted the district administration to take severe action against the concerned. They see this as a design to create communal clashes between these two communities.
According to Thiru Thondar Sabai (Saiva devotes club), HR and CE claim it has accepted out of 5 lakh acres only now 4.75 lakh acres lands. It said HR and CE have no account for remaining 50 thousand acres and the real figure is 5 lakh acres lands which are not accounted for. After court orders, now Revenue, Local Bodies, Electricity Board, Land Survey departments are being integrated to redeem encroached lands and recover stolen rare idols.