A day after it came to light that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had issued summons to two Dalit farmers over a land dispute case against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader early in 2023, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) president and MP Thol Thirumavalavan and Puthiya Tamilagam chief K Krishnasamy have issued statements of condemnation. Referring to how the two elderly farmers, Kannaiyan and his brother Krishnan, were referred to in the summons by caste names as ‘Hindu Pallars’, Thirumavalavan said, “This is a shocking new development. The VCK strongly condemns this outrageous action by the Enforcement Directorate.”
Similarly, Krishnasamy said, “When a letter is sent, only the recipient’s name, father’s name, door number, street, name of village, district, and other such details are mentioned. But the ED has referred to the caste names [of the two farmers]. It has been nearly two years since the name ‘Pallar’ was changed to Devandra Kulla Vellalar. Has this not come to the notice of the ED? If they were aware, it is not only a crime to refer to the caste name, it also appears as if there is an ulterior motive to this.”
It was in July 2023 that Kannaiyan and Krishnan, both in their 70s and living in Attur of Salem district, received summons from the ED. While it remains unclear as to why the ED summoned the brothers, who own 6.5 acres of agricultural land in their village, the reference to them as ‘Hindu Pallars’ has triggered outrage. It has also been alleged that the ED is targeting the farmers – who subsist on a Rs 1,000 monthly pension – since they are engaged in a land dispute case against a local BJP leader whom they have accused of illegally trying to grab their land.
When TNM spoke to the farmers’ lawyers Dalit Parvina on December 31, we were told that the ED has not provided any information on what the case against them is. “The brothers had no idea what the case was, and there was nothing mentioned in the summons apart from asking them to appear before the ED with proper documents. The only case these farmers are dealing with is the land grab attempt by a local BJP functionary,” the lawyer had previously told TNM.
The local BJP leader, a man identified as Gunashekar, is the party’s Salem East district secretary. Based on Krishnan’s complaint that Gunashekar was trying to grab their land, a criminal case was registered against the BJP leader and he was arrested and remanded in judicial custody in 2020. A civil case regarding the land dispute is also pending in the Attur court.
In his statement on January 1, Thirumavalavan said, “It appears that the ED is acting on the instigation of Gunasekar. We demand that ED officials and the BJP leader are arrested and investigated under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.”
Krishnasamy has also demanded action from Chief Minister MK Stalin, asking him to direct the police to arrest Gunasekar. “The police must also ensure protection for Krishnan and Kannaiyan so they can carry on their agricultural activities on their own land. Gunasekar should also be removed from the BJP’s primary membership by state president K Annamalai for misusing the party’s name and consistently harassing poor farmers with criminal intent,” he said.
Also adding that national-level authorities in the ED should provide an explanation for the summons, Krishnasamy said a case must be registered under the SC/ST Act, against the agency’s officials responsible for sending a letter referring to the farmers’ caste identity.