Two elderly farmers in their 70s, Kannaiyan and his brother Krishnan, living in Attur of Salem district in Tamil Nadu, were summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in July 2023.
The Union government organisation stirred a controversy following the summons. What has triggered outrage is that the envelope of the ED summons mentioned the caste of the duo as ‘Hindu Pallars’ on it.
The local residents claim that the Dalit farmers, who own 6.5 acres of agricultural land in their village, were being pursued by the ED for their involvement in a land dispute case, where they have accused a local BJP leader of trying to illegally grab their land.
On June 22, 2023, Kannaiyan and Krishnan received summons from the Enforcement Directorate office in Chennai, in which they were asked to appear before the officials with necessary documents on July 5. The investigation led by Assistant Director of ED, Ritesh Kumar was reportedly under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act based on a complaint received against them.
“Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me under sub-section (2) and sub-section (3) of Section 50 of the said act, I require the said Kanniyan S/o Chinnasamy to appear before me at my office on 05/072023 along with the documents as per the schedule attached,” read the summons.
The farmers were asked to produce a long list of documents like a copy of their PAN card, Aadhaar card, voter ID, a copy of their passport, two passport-size photographs, copies of their tax returns and those of their family members, details of investments made by them and their family members, details of immovable properties in their name and in the name of family members, details of bank accounts, fixed deposits in their name and the names of family members, agricultural land details, and details of crop production.
After six months, the summons sent to the farmers was uploaded on social media, and went viral for the past two days. It had come under severe criticism as the economically disadvantaged farmers who subsist on a Rs 1,000 monthly pension had a meagre amount in their bank accounts.
“The brothers had no idea what the case was, and there was nothing mentioned in the summons apart from asking them to appear before the ED with proper documents. The only case these farmers are dealing with is the land grab attempt by a local BJP functionary,” Dalit Parvina, the lawyer representing Kanniyan and Krishnan told The News Minute.
They have been fighting a legal case against Gunashekar, BJP’s Salem east district secretary, and have accused the latter of trying to grab their agricultural land.
Based on the duo’s complaint, a criminal case was registered against Gunashekar and he was arrested and remanded in judicial custody in 2020. Additionally, a civil case regarding the land dispute between Krishnan and Gunashekar is pending in the Attur court.
This raises a serious concern about the malicious working pattern of the ED, which issues summons and intimidates persons and institutions who come in direct opposition to BJP or any leader of the party.
According to Advocate Parvina, the farmers who had only Rs. 450 in their bank account at the time of the summons, borrowed Rs 50,000 to meet the expenses associated with their visits to the ED office, such as hiring the vehicle and other paperwork. Now, they are obligated to repay this loan.
“We took all the records and went to meet ED officials in July 2023. They asked us to appear again. We told them we are somehow surviving, how can anyone accuse us of illegal wealth?” Krishnan asked while responding to the media.
Meanwhile, Gunashekar has released a video on social media alleging that the Tamil Nadu police are trying to discredit and defame the ED and the BJP. Till now, the ED officials have not commented on the issue.