CHENNAI: Police have booked former DMK legislator B Ranganathan as the prime accused in the murder of a man who was fighting against land-grabbers in Avadi on the outskirts of Chennai.
S Bhuvaneswaran, 38, was hacked to death in the presence of his four-year-old daughter in Kolathur on Tuesday. Bhuvaneswaran had filed RTI applications to retrieve titles on about 18 acres of land belonging to his family and other acquaintances after the plots were forcibly occupied by a gang, allegedly led by the former DMK MLA. He was in the process of filing more RTI applications to help other owners strengthen their claims on roughly 82 acres of encroached land in Veerapuram near Avadi.
Bhuvaneswaran, who lived in Gandhi Nagar in Kolathur, was on a motorcycle with his daughter on Tuesday around 12.15pm when two bike riders intercepted them on Fifth Cross Street near his house. One of them grabbed the girl. The other got off the bike and hacked Bhuvaneswaran with a sickle. They abandoned the child on the road and fled, police said. Neighbours called the family who took Bhuvaneswaran to a nearby hospital and later to Kilpauk Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him "dead on arrival."
West Chennai joint commissioner of police K Shankar and Villivakkam assistant commissioner of police K Kannan visited the murder scene. Preliminary inquiries revealed it was a murder allegedly instigated in connection with the land encroachment.
The prime accused, Ranganathan, is among several former DMK MLAs and ministers who have been booked on land-grabbing charges after the AIADMK government took over. Ranganathan was arrested in August 2011 on a similar land-grab charge but released on bail. Subsequently, he was detained under the stringent Goondas Act.
Bhuvaneswaran's father Siva, in his complaint, said Ranganathan could be behind the killing. Siva, who worked as a ticket examiner in the State Express Transport Corporation, was given power of attorney by a friend, Madhavan, for a 30-acre property in Morea village in Veerapuram near Avadi. Siva said he took voluntary retirement from SETC to look after the property. He later sold 20 of the 30 acres and gave a share of the profits to Madhavan. Later, Madhavan gave the remaining 10 acres to Siva as a gift.
Siva said a group of people allegedly backed by Ranganathan had encroached on 100 acres of land, including 30 acres belonging to him and Madhavan. Bhuvaneswaran had fought a legal case, filed many RTI applications and staged demonstrations to attract the government's attention. He managed to recover more than 18 acres and had filed more RTIs to retrieve the rest, police said.
Kolathur police have registered a murder case and launched a hunt for the accused.
CHENNAI: Slain RTI activist S Bhuvaneswaran's movements had been monitored for more than a week before he was attacked, police said. This was revealed to the police by the two men who surrendered in Kancheepuram on Wednesday.
Murali and Anandan, who have been in the custody of the Kolathur police for seven days now, said they had planned to eliminate him near his house.
Bhuvaneswaran was hacked to death when he was returning home on his bike with his daughter Rudra (3) in Kolathur on Tuesday last.
"There are many more days to go. We are trying to get more information from the duo," a police officer said.
Meanwhile, CPI (M) on Friday staged a demonstration near Avadi demanding that the police arrest the other accused involved in Bhuvaneswaran's murder.
The protest, in which nearly 250 people participated, was led by the CPI (M) state executive committee member M N S Venkataraman. They also insisted that the police form a new outpost at Morai village near Veerapuram in Avadi.
COIMBATORE: Over 75 activists protested in front of the Red Cross building here on Friday demanding protection from the government in the wake of the murder of Chennai-based RTI activist S Bhuvaneshwaran. The group also submitted a memorandum to the district collector, a copy of which has been forwarded to the cell of chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Demanding a solatium for the family of Bhuvaneshwaran, the RTI activists also sought the arrest of the concerned Public Information Officer (PIO). "As per the RTI Act 2005, it is the responsibility of the PIO to maintain the secrecy of the RTI applicant's contact information. But in this case it is clear that the offenders have been kept well informed about the various information pertaining to Bhuvaneshwaran," a memoranda issued by the activists to the chief minister said.
"Therefore we request you to instruct the authorities concerned to immediately suspend and arrest the said PIO where the deceased had filed an RTI application, for gross negligence of duty and breach of trust, in addition to violation of the RTI Act," the memorandum further said.
Rajkumarr Velu, director (operation) Fifth Pillar, said until now the physical assault of RTI activists happened only in north India. "For the first time this culture of violence has entered Tamil Nadu," he said. Asked if he had received any verbal threats, Velu said he had not received any so far.
"We met the collector and handed the petition to him. He patiently listened to us and promised to help. He has taken over only today. We are forwarding the memorandum to the chief minister's cell. We are also asking PIOs not disclose information on applicants," he said.
RTI activist S Bhuvaneshwaran, 38, was killed on January 10, in the presence of his four-year-old daughter Yamini by a land mafia near Kolathur in Chennai. The deceased had filed RTI applications to reclaim titles on 18 acres of land belonging to his family and other acquaintances after the plots were forcibly occupied by the land mafia. RTI activists asked the chief minister to deal with the situation with an iron hand, hoping to deter others from committing such crimes.
"In the present situation we don't feel threatened. But when we go to the same office, like the railways or the corporation, for instance, there is a chance that we might be marked and avoided. But so far, I have to admit that I haven't feared bodily harm," said Vinod Srinivasan, executive committee member, Fifth Pillar, and businessman.
K Durai Raj of the Loksatta Party and an RTI activist said that the culture of preventing RTI activists from filing applications and creating a fear psychosis in their minds has entered Tamil Nadu and has to be combated. "We should condemn such heinous acts," he said.
Members of the Coalition of NGOs in the district staged a demonstration on Huzur Road in front of the Red Cross Society on Friday, demanding the arrest of those behind the murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist S. Bhuvaneswaran near Kolathur in Chennai on January 10.
They pointed out that Bhuvaneswaran was killed by a land mafia right in front of his four-year old daughter Yamini. He had filed applications to retrieve titles on 18 acres belonging to his family and acquaintances after the lands were forcibly occupied by the mafia. He had also filed RTI applications to help other land owners whose land, about 82 acres, had been encroached upon by the mafia at Veerapuram near Avanashi.
The activists demanded solatium for the bereaved family members.
They urged the Chief Minister to initiate stringent action for preventing recurrence of such incidents.