Recently, S. Ramadoss, the Founder of Pattali Makkal Katchi, which is currently part of the electoral alliance between the AIADMK and the BJP, had alleged that the headquarters of the DMK is situated on Panchami lands, which cannot be legally occupied by anyone other than people from scheduled caste communities.
This is a fairly large parcel of land situated in the heart of the Chennai city, on the arterial Mount Road. The property includes offices of the DMK party channel, Kalaignar TV and the party’s media organ Murasoli. There are spacious halls which are let out for marriages, meetings and functions at lucrative rates.
After Ramadoss raised this allegation, DMK President M K Stalin, issued a response saying that he is willing to produce the sale deed and documents of the property, which date from 1985. Senior BJP functionary Tada Periyasamy recently issued a sharply worded rejoinder on Facebook that the original documents dating from the 1923 Permanent Register, RSR ( Re-settlement Paisal Register ), SLR (Settlement Land Register) and the Gazette Copy from 1935 were the documents that could conclusively prove that the land is part of Panchami lands. He said that land originally belonged to Dalits which were later transferred to non-Dalits.
He also demanded Mr Stalin to produce relevant documents and prove his party’s claim. Further, Periyasamy also said that the land which was originally allocated to a Dalit on a non-transferrable basis was transferred illegally to two non-Dalits and the DMK acquired it only in the 4th transaction from the original allotment.
PMK chief Ramadoss claimed that the site had a hostel for Adi Dravidar students and demanded to know why the DMK president M. K. Stalin was silent on that factor. He said that DMK is showing only a patta of 1985, but silent on ownership papers earlier than that.
In the meanwhile, gossip is doing the rounds that Thirumavalavan, leader of the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi, a DMK alliance partner had raised the same claim when they were not part of the alliance. An old YouTube video was produced as evidence. The video has since been removed, so we cannot confirm the veracity that Mr Thirumavalavan ever made such a claim.
Today the Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said that his government will conduct an inquiry into Panchami land issue.
What is this panchami land?
In 1891, the then Collector of Chingleput District in the erstwhile Madras Presidency J. H. A. Tremenheere had conducted a study on the situation of the Depressed Classes, as Scheduled Castes were then known. He concluded that one of the causes of systemic oppression and backwardness was that these castes were landless agricultural labours. To remedy this situation, the British administration had allocated nearly 12 lakh acres of land across the province to Depressed Classes under the Depressed Classes Land Act of 1892.
These lands could not be sold or transferred for a sum and the title would vest with the original allottees and their descendants alone.
However, in a very short period of time, it was found that very few of these lands were still in the possession of original allottees. Since the 1950s, successive Dravidian leaders have made promises to claim the Panchami lands for the Scheduled Castes. This had even figured in the DMK’s 2006 state election poll manifesto.
It is in this context that the allegation that one of the oldest social justice movements in the country could actually be squatting on land allocated for landless labourers seems so paradoxical.