KOCHI: The protest launched by Hindu groups demanding the removal of crosses installed at Panchalimedu, a tourist destination near Kuttikkanam in Idukki district, has triggered a dispute over the ownership of the land.
While District Collector H Dineshan reiterated it was revenue land, former president of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) Prayar Gopalakrishnan said a gazette notification was issued in 2013 handing over 22 acres to the TDB.
On Tuesday, G Arunlal, a native of Kuppakkayam, filed a writ petition before the Kerala High Court seeking to remove the crosses installed at Panchalimedu. Meanwhile, the three wooden crosses installed atop the hill during the last Good Friday were removed by the church authorities following a notice issued by the revenue authorities.
However, Hindu outfits have reiterated that the protest will continue until the remaining 14 crosses are removed. Upping the ante, the Hindu Aikya Vedi announced that a delegation of senior leaders led by state president K P Sasikala will visit Panchalimedu on Wednesday.
Denying the TDB's claim that the 269 acres at Panchalimedu originally belonged to the board, Dineshan told Express that the land belonged to the Revenue Department.
"There are no records to prove that the land belonged to the Devaswom Board. However, we haven't served any notice on Bhuvaneswari temple authorities. The three crosses installed recently have been removed. The issue of the other 14 crosses will be taken up at a later stage, he said. We had plans to start a Vedic Study Centre at Panchalimedu and conducted a 'Devaprasnam to understand the will of God. As per the findings of the Devaprasnam, we renovated the Bhuvaneswari Devi temple. There was an attempt to encroach upon the Panchali pond which we foiled. We started poojas at the temple in November 2013, and former Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed sanctioned power connection to the temple. The TDB is in possession of all records and I have personally verified it," Gopalakrishnan told Express.
He urged the government to implement the Kerala High Court order to constitute a Devaswom Land Tribunal to retrieve the 2,800 acres of Devaswom land illegally possessed by private parties across the state. The government should help the TDB retrieve the land and stop communal elements from exploiting the situation, he said.
The 269 acres at Panchalimedu under Survey No 811 of Peruvanthanam village originally belonged to Vanchipuzha Madom. The land was taken over by the TDB under sections 37 and 38 of the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act. Later, the property became revenue land as part of the proceedings of the Land Reforms Act.
The Tourism Department has illegally trespassed into Devaswom property and made constructions at the ecologically sensitive spot, said the petition filed before the High Court.