Tension prevailed on Butt Road at St. Thomas Mount on Thursday when Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department officials attempted to take possession of its land that had been used as the State headquarters of the Vanniyar Sangam. A driver of the department was injured and the windshield of a government vehicle damaged when a section of a mob threw stones at it.
HR and CE officials told The Hindu that the Vadapalani Andavar (Murugan) Temple had a sub-temple at St. Thomas Mount–the Kasi Viswanathar Temple. Several years ago, an individual donated over 18 grounds on Butt Road to Kasi Viswanathar Temple. The land, under the control of the department, was given on a five-year lease to Sumanthagamani in 1989. The monthly rent was fixed at Rs.400. But, the tenant had not paid the rent and let it out on rent to a third party. The land with a building on it became the State headquarters of the Vanniyar Sangam.
In 1991, the department filed a case in the Alandur sub-court seeking a direction to the occupants to vacate and also an order so that it could take possession. After many years, the court gave an order in the department's favour. Subsequently, the occupants approached the court. Their petition was dismissed recently. The department officials on Thursday went to take possession of the land.
There was a group of college students who left the building after which it was sealed by the officials. Around 11.30 a.m. a group comprising members of the Vanniyar Sangam and the Pattali Makkal Katchi, including former Union Minister of State for Railways A.K.Moorthy and former MLA Shanmugham reached the spot. As the numbers grew, the situation became tense. A section of the crowd turned violent and threw stones damaging the windshield of a car belonging to the HR and CE Department. Ajai, a car driver, was injured. Police strength was increased and only then the situation was brought under control.
The partymen broke open the seal placed on the building door. Members of both the Vanniyar Sangam and the PMK squatted inside the premises. They said the government had acted in haste and did not give them time to go on appeal in a higher court.
While officials of the HR and CE Department did not specify how they planned to use or develop the property, they said that it was on a prime location and as per current market rates the land cost was nothing less than Rs.1 crore per ground (2,400 square feet).