Perumbetti (Pathanamthitta): Lyricist Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma and his relatives were detained by Ponthenpuzha-Valiyakavu forest protection committee workers on Tuesday.
Sarath Chandra Varma and his relatives had gone to the forest area after coming to know that his ancestors once owned land there but were stopped by local activists who claimed that the visitors were trying to seize forest land through a court order.
Apart from Varma, the group included his relatives Prasad Varma, Krishna Kumar, and neighbours Sreekumar and Jose Mathew. When the group reached Perumbetti village office, the activists stopped them and took Jose Mathew, Sreekumar and Krishna Kumar hostage at their protest venue.
Though police reached there and released two of them, the protesters refused to free Krishna Kumar. They demanded the presence of the collector, the RDO and other senior officials to release him.
The group claimed that Varma's grandfather owns some 500 acres of forest land in the area. Since many people are coming to the area claiming to possess land, the protesters are always on the vigil these days. The incident took place at 2 pm on Tuesday as a protest led by the Ponthenpuzha forest protection committee reached the fifth day.
The group reached the village on the basis of a phone call received by Varma's brother-in-law Krishna Kumar a month ago. Retired survey official Ramachandran Nair had conveyed the information that their grandfather owned vast tracts of land in Ponthenpuzha.
Varma said that they reached the place on their way to Nedumkandam in connection with a film work. He told cops that they don't have any documents for the land and was planning to enquire about it in the village office. When the cops asked them about their grandfather, they didn't have proper answers.
The committee workers allege that the group members are part of a forest mafia and that they have fake documents with them. There were similar cases earlier too, said protest committee convener Santhosh Perumbatti, adding that the cops released the group members using force.
By 5 pm, CI H Salim, SHO M R Suresh and others held talks with the committee leaders. They agreed to hand over Krishna Kumar to the cops on the promise that a meeting will be called on Thursday at 11 pm by the Thiruvalla RDO.
Considering the situation, police personnel from Keezhvaipur, Ranni and Koipuram stations and rapid action force had reached the spot. Varma and this group could only continue their journey after four hours.