December 19, 2017
Forced to call off its first anniversary celebrations due to the denial of venue by a private hotel that was allegedly threatened by the powers that be, the Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society has planned to conduct a public meeting at a public place in Chennai shortly.
Formed to retrieve the 44 acres of land, that originally belongs to them, from the Isha Foundation headed by godman Jaggi Vasudev, the association had organised an eventful celebration entailing a workshop having speakers, including ‘water man’ Rajendra Singh, Thirumurugan Gandhi of May 17 Movement, Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam founder Kolathur Mani, Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam general secretary K Ramakrishnan and environmental activist Piyush Manush among others, on board.
But the association had no option but to cancel the meeting scheduled on Tuesday after the organisers received a call from the private hotel, where the event was arranged, stating their inability to provide the venue due to pressure from the state government.
“We have been fighting a long battle to get back our lands taken away by the Isha Foundation, which is scuttling all our activities in some way or other. We are not ready to give up our struggle for land rights. The State Government should take appropriate action to retrieve our lands from Isha,” P.Muthammal, president of the Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society, told a media conference on Tuesday.
“We do not blame the hotelier for denying the venue for the event. We understand his predicament. But what we understand is the pressure for the state government originated from the centre acting in favour of Jaggi Vasudev. But come what may a public meeting will be held in Chennai to expose the illegal activities of the godman,” Kolathur Mani told The Covai Post.
Seconding him, Piyush Manush charged that Isha Foundation has been cheating the public under the guise of environment and Jaggi Vasudev has been misusing the faith a section of people have in him. “Jaggi Vasudev has been spreading false information that his tree plantation drive has helped increase green cover by 7 per cent. It is the duty of activists like us to expose the environmental fraud resorted to by him,” he said.
Prof Jayaraman said that the TN government itself has informed the court about Isha’s encroachments and questioned why action has not been taken against officials who allowed the encroachment. Coming down heavily on the ‘Rally for Rivers’ campaign launched by the godman to facilitate implementation of river inter-linking project, he claimed that corporates were behind his initiative to make water a trade commodity.
TPDK leader Ramakrishnan said Isha is a major contributor in encroaching the elephant corridor and added that having a helipad set up in forest area is proof for violation of forest rules. Wild life and the elephant habitats are disturbed and if the government failed to restore the corridor, more number of cases of jumbos attacking humans would be reported, he pointed out.