It was close to 10 pm on April 19, when officers from the local police station rushed into social activist Vedagan's home at Moopannar street in RK Nagar. His son recalls how the 74-year-old diabetic was forcibly taken from his home by the local police, who claimed that it was merely for an enquiry. But this 'short interrogation' has stretched for over a month now and the activist has been arrested on charges of keeping 2 kg of ganja at a premises owned by him.
Social activist Vedagan, who is also the President of the Ezhil Nagar Welfare Association, has been living in Moopanar street for over 30 years, according to his family. His shop where he sells pickles, soaps and other items is apparently right opposite to a police station and officers visit his shop day in and day out. So, what prompted a sudden raid on this premises?
"AIADMK MLA Vetrivel is behind my father's arrest," declares Vedhagan's 47-year-old son, Thangaiah Victor, to The News Minute. "The Perumbur MLA offered my father Rs.10 crore to let go of land that the Government had identified for homeless poor in Ezhil Nagar. This happened last week and after my father refused, he has been arrested under false charges," he adds.
The history of this large tract of land, according to the family, dates back to 1987. Severe floods in Ezhil Nagar, in that year, had forced thousands of families to leave the area. Following this, the state Government identified land in the area, to house 4,000 residents. The local Corporation however allegedly wanted to convert the space into a dumping ground. The Ezhil Nagar association, led by Vedagan however took the case to court, says his son. The activist obtained a favourable court order for proper allotment of residential plots.
"Each family was going to receive two grounds. The total value of the land is over Rs.500 crore," says Victor. "But from the day the court order came, my father has been subjected to constant harrassment. Several businessmen and politicians have been torturing him because they want the land," he says.
On the day that Vedagan was arrested, he left his shop at around 7.30 pm, says the family. His friend, Sivamurugesan who has been associated with them for decades now, left the shop at 7.50 pm. "They found the ganja under the cupboard in the shop. We went and asked the police for a copy of the CCTV footage from the area because we suspect that Sivamurugesan is in cahoots with the MLA and they are trying to frame my father. But the police said that they the footage was deleted," he claims.
When The News Minute got in touch with the H6 police station in RK Nagar, the inspector dismissed the family's claims. "There is no CCTV in the area," says the officer. "These claims of politcal pressure is wrong. What need would we have to frame him?" he asks.
Vedagan and his family are however convinced that a conspiracy is at play. The social activist moved the special court under the Narcotic Drugs and Pychotropic Substance Act for bail. The special judge dismissed the bail application, saying that the probe was still in its initial phase. The court however, directed the commissioner of police to nominate an officer known for his intergrity, to inquire into the case.
It was only after he moved the High Court, that he finally got bail in this particular case. This was infact the reason that this arrest, even came to be notice by the public and media. Vedagan however still remains in jail. "The person responsible for sourcing the ganja is a man named Jagan. He is the MLA's aide. His wife has now filed a cheating case against my father, for which he is still in prison," says Victor. "Jagan is now threatening even the secretary of the association," he alleges.
The MLA in question however, completely denies these allegations. "Vedhagan is a Congress man and a habitual offender. The land in question belongs to the Collector and it was given to the slum board, to build houses. But a soil test showed that you can't construct a multi-storey building there. All this happened before I was elected as the RK Nagar MLA," says P Vertrivel. "After I won the seat, I came to realise that these people were trying to sell the land. So I filed a complaint with the police, collector and the Chief Minister. They could not enter the land after that. The problem ended in 2011," the MLA claims.
Vedagan's family, however denies these charges. "We will bring my father out of jail in two days. When he comes out we will expose all these people with evidence," he says.