CHENNAI: 62-year-old S Looington, physically disabled, lived all his life at Tulasingapuram near Nandambakkam. All was hunky-dory until 2015, when floods ravaged his house, leaving him and his family roofless. Down, but not out – that was Looington’s attitude. He set about rebuilding his home from scratch, and came up with Rs 75,000, and built a one-bedroom house with a thatched roof. Little did he know, his happiness was short-lived.
The land Looington lives on, is subjected to a property dispute between the locals there and the adjacent Officers’ Training Academy (OTA). Having lived in close proximity to the military establishment, the residents are used to restrictions. “The officials do not even allow ambulances at times, but we have never spoken a word,” said Looington.
While the OTA claims that it is their land that the people have encroached upon, the locals say they’re the ones who have been paying the taxes there for a long time. Things took a turn for the worse on June 16. OTA officials along with a few policemen reached the locality to demolish Looington’s house, but were stopped by the locals.
A little past midnight, they came back and razed Looington’s house, a video of which is available with TNIE. “Thankfully, we were not inside the house. I built my house on my land, where I grew up. How can they suddenly claim ownership over it?” asked a teary-eyed Looington.
A senior officer at the OTA said, “Looington and many others have repeatedly attempted to construct permanent structures on the encroached land. OTA Chennai, being the agency responsible for the watch and ward of the defence land next to our campus, does not permit this, and carries out demolition of unauthorised constructions with help of local police.” The officials demanded documents when they came in the morning and the same was shown to them, said Looington. “What I constructed was my house and officials must not have a control over it,” he lamented.