Unfazed by warnings and isolated cases of reprimand, high-profile land grabbers continue to create assets on state and community land in Srinagar’s outskirts, reports Bashir Assad
The capital city of Srinagar has been virtually reduced to Srinagar municipal limits. Kashmir’s influential high-profile businessmen are on a land-grab spree. Prime state land around Srinagar city is being grabbed with impunity, right under the nose of UT administration.
Even though the Administration states that regulations are being followed and strict checks are imposed, it is known that babudom largely functions the way it used to.
Sources reveal that senior officers at the district level are hand-in-glove with land encroachers. They are benefitting directly or indirectly by the unprecedented land grabbing
Highly influential encroachers seem to be competing with each other in grabbing state land at prime locations. Sources highlight that at places, revenue officials are betting for their high-profile moneyed clients. Since all departments have their share in the loot, illegal and unauthorized occupation of prized state land is quietly regularized in files.
HOW LAND-GRAB BECAME AN ACCEPTED PHENOMENON
When militancy began and the forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits happened, the militants and the influential men in Jamaat e Islami discovered that they could occupy Pandit land and property with impunity. This further extended to rampant grabbing of state land. Terrorists were ruling by the gun. State authorities were either complicit or meekly capitulated. Any opposition meant death.
Steadily, the culture of land-grab set in. The real estate industry was happy to collude with anti-state forces to colonize more and more of state land. The natural flood channels of the Jhelum, fertile agricultural fields and marshes, and lands around lakes, ponds and wetlands in Srinagar – all were occupied for advancing colonization, and converted into residential and commercial places. Links between the lakes were cut off because of unplanned urbanization.
Simultaneously, land-grab by the high and mighty flourished around the periphery of Srinagar, and also in Jammu and other parts of the state. Land-grab has now been normalized in the region.
For decades, militancy leaders and separatists combined to encroach upon state and community land. This was done by changing the nomenclature through false and wrong entries in the revenue records with the connivance of senior revenue officials.
Mainstream politicians and ministers jumped into the race and grabbed as much land as they could by misuse of power and authority. Alongside the Pantha Chowk-Parimpora Bypass, separatists and mainstream politicians grabbed hundreds of acres of state land. The land title in revenue records was changed, and the land registered in the name of their relatives.
LAND-GRAB HAS CONTINUED POST ABROGATION, ‘STRICTER ADMINISTRATION’
The foot hills from Kral Sangri right up to Khimber at Harwan have been encroached upon by politicians, bureaucrats and highly influential businessmen, particularly post the abrogation of Article 370. Elitist politicians have jumped into the race. Interestingly, they have been outnumbered by business tycoons and bureaucrats. The patwar halkas of Barji, Chatterhama Khimber, Saidpora and Danehama, part of Hazartbal tehsil, have witnessed unprecedented land encroachment by influential class of people.
PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has encroached upon state land at two places. One is under Patwar Halki Saidpora, and the other is at Khimber. The Khimber property of Mehbooba is reportedly benami property.
The entire foothills right from Saidpora up to Sangrashi and Khimber has been occupied by influential businessmen and top police officers. Sources reveal that a businessman had initially purchased 34 kanals of land in this area, in which only 2.13 kanals where proprietary land. Today, he occupies more than 1,100 kanals of land in this area.
According to locals, this businessman is famous for using both money and muscle for the expansion of his real estate business. Before abrogation, the gentleman was very close to the Muftis. His name has figured in NIA investigations into Mehbooba Mufti’s funding channels. Post abrogation, this businessman has shifted his loyalty and is seen wining and dining with the top BJP leaders.
INEFFECTIVE COMMITTEES, COMPLICIT OFFICERS
The state administration has constituted several committees over the years to ascertain the truth about land grabbing at Harwan in Tehsil Hazratbal and other encroachment hot-spots in Srinagar. Interestingly, the officers who are supposed to ascertain the truth regarding these encroachments and have facilitated land grabbing are members of the said committees.
One high-profile businessman has allegedly submitted fake mutations and revenue papers in the J&K High Court. He recently filed a case to get the order from the court in his favour. The businessman withdrew the case fearing reprimand by the court for submitting fake documents.
On sensing the rot in the system which is facilitating land-grab by the high and mighty, the Administration ordered the attachment of Assistant Commissioner Nazool, Srinagar. Immediately after the withdrawal of the case by the high-profile businessmen, the Administration constituted yet another committee headed by the SDM of the area.
TUSSLE, MUD-SLINGING AMONG REAL ESTATE PLAYERS REVEALS UGLY TRUTHS OF LAND GRAB
The tussle between influential real estate players is causing problems for senior officers who are facilitating the land-grab. These real estate players are driven by profit and greed to amass as much land as possible. They keep complaining against each other and bring to the fore each other’s follies and misdeeds, much to the discomfort of the officials who are hand-in-glove for these shady deals.
It would have been a cakewalk for the revenue officials and also the land grabbers if there were no conflicts of interest and no clashes of ego among the real estate business community. The real estate sharks are so determined to expose each other that they have released in public domain the fake revenue documents released by their opponents. According to locals, revenue officials at Patwari level were forced to prepare fake mutations by their seniors in favour of the beneficiaries.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is investigating the encroachments. There is slow progress because at various levels, the officers are allegedly trying to stall the process. There are deliberate attempts by Srinagar administration to give clean chits to the accused.
It does not need rocket science to figure out that such massive land grabbing at prime locations in and around Srinagar city is not possible without the connivance of the officials from Revenue Department, Forest Department and LCMA. Designated nallas, khuls and streams under the jurisdiction of Saidpora, Chatterhama, Khimber and Danehame patwar halkas have been encroached upon by influential business men, bureaucrats and politicians.
Tehsildar Dargah Hazratbal MR Altaf Ahmad Bhat said that a report has been submitted for further action into the matter, and the committee constituted for the purpose is digging deep into the matter to ascertain the truth.
It is pertinent to mention here that in 2015, then Assistant Commissioner Revenue Srinagar had passed an order by the virtue of Fard-e-Partal dated May 6, 2015, declaring all the entries with respect to state land, Shamilat Section 4 land and Shamilat Section 5 land of revenue estates of Chatterhama and Khimber as null and void.
Aggrieved by this Fard-e- Partal, many parties/applicants approached the court of Financial Commissioner Revenue, J&K for redressal of their grievances.
FROM THE REVENUE RECORDS
The report of Tehsildar North Srinagar dated January 2, 2021
Findings at Clause C. The mutations with respect to Survey No 1097 by means of sale deed gift deed or Sehat-e-Kasht are incorrect as per law. Therefore, further action under rules needs to be initiated in this regard. The report says that Survey No. 1096 and 1097 Min are under illegal occupation. Same is the case with Survey No. 1108.
The details of Khasra No. 1096 and 1097 have been submitted vide communication No; TNS/OQ?398-401/20 dated 07/08/2020 of Tehsil North Srinagar. Khasra No: 1096 measuring 353 Kanal -07 Min is recorded as Shamilat Sec.4 Mafooz Kahcharie.
But in case of Khasra No. 1097, a lot of discrepancy has been observed regarding the total quantum of land in different records. In Jamabandi 1970 -71 AD Khasra No:1097 (basic) is recorded in different Batta numbers measuring a total of 1012 kanal – 11 Minn . Land measuring 749 Kanal – 12 Min has been recorded as Shamilat Sec.5 under various Khasra Nos. Important to mention that there is no demarcation between the two different types of land (Shamilat Sec.5 and Kahcharie ) in the said Khasra No.. On the spot, whole land is in commixed form.
Land Scam Not About Encroachment Alone
The land scam is not about encroachment alone. In fact, it is a scam of mammoth proportions. It is a scam involving forged entries, fake records and fabricated mutations. The report in the adjacent box titled From The Revenue Records categorically states that only 4 of the 23 sale deeds produced by the parties have been traced in the records. The rest of the sale deeds could not be traced from the revenue records.
Similarly, another party has allegedly registered the mutation in the office of SDM Budgam. Shockingly, the land in question falls under the jurisdiction of SDM North Srinagar, as reflected in the report. There is no demarcation of land falling under different categories. Land has been occupied by the high and mighty at random. The rot can be stemmed only if the local administration is held accountable for the criminal and motivated negligence.