Veeramalai and Mr. Nallathambi
Farmers and Environmental Activists
HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on 03 September regarding the double murder of Mr. Veeramalai and Mr. Nallathambi in Tamil Nadu by several individuals from their village and the failure of the State and Police force in general to protect them. Mr. Veeramalai was a farmer by profession while working on the side on the removal of illegal encroachments in the Mudalaipatti lake in his village in Karur district of Tamil Nadu, and Mr. Nallanthambi was his son.
Since the 1990s, Mr. Veeramalai’s ancestral land, which was adjoined by a lake, began getting encroached upon as the lake got dried up. Along with a friend Mr. Veeramalai initiated legal action against the encroachment through a writ petition at Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, which resulted in an order for the removal of encroachments in the lake along with preservation of the water body on October 24, 2018.
On May 4, 2019, Mr. Perumal and Mr. Natarajan from the village, who themselves had encroached land in the Muthalaipatti lake the harassed and intimidated Mr. Veeramalai with a pistol and this incident was reported to the Inspector of Police Mr. Bhaskar, at the Kulithalai police. However, despite being assured that necessary action would be taken, it was not clear on whether any FIR was filed or not.
Months after a status report on the encroachment was ordered to be filed, on July 26, 2019, Mr. Veeramalai assisted authorities regarding the same.Two days later, his daughter, on July 28, 2019, witnessed Mr. Perumal, Mr. Jayakandhan, Mr. Sasikumar, Mr. Stalin, Mr. Premkumar from the village creating ruckus near the market and liquor shop, in possession of weapons, which was relayed to the police, who sent a patrol there. In the meanwhile, wide-spread rumours about an impending murder in the village began to circulate.
Following this, on the morning July 29, 2019 Mr. Nathamballi, Mr. Veeramalai's son, was attacked while travelling back to his farmhouse on his bike by Mr. Prabhakar, and killed by Mr. Jayakanthan, Mr. Perumal and others, declaring “This is the fate if you file case against us” . Mr Nallathambi’s sister was witness to this from a distance, and heard the group saying further “Come, let’s kill his father also.” Mr. Veeramalai was brutally attacked and killed with his grandson by his side, who was also attacked with a sickle as he tried to run away.
It is pertinent to note here that the land documents and case files and documents which were in Mr. Veeramalai’s farm house have since gone missing and the roof of the house has been broken, in a form of warning to anyone pursuing the case of mass illegal encroachment in Muthalaipatti lake.