SRINAGAR: A government probe has established that former Congress minister Taj Mohiuddin has illegally grabbed land in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
Last month, a team of officials from the state vigilance organisation and the revenue and forest department, while demarcating the land at Shopian’s Sedaw area, found 39 kanals and 3 marlas of land under Taj’s possession. Actually, Taj claimed to be the custodian of 31 kanals and 18 marlas of land. Of this, Taj possesses 18 kanals and 9 marlas as propriety land while the forest department is claiming the rest of the land as forestland.
A senior revenue official, who was part of the investigation team, while giving the break-up of Taj’s property, said the former minister possessed 18 kanals and 9 marlas of propriety land; that he had ‘encroached’ on surrounding 10 kanals and 16 marlas of land and ‘grabbed’ 6 kanals and 5 marlas while only 3 kanals are registered in Taj’s name in revenue records.
Taj is apparently claiming that 5 kanals of land belonging to him were ‘encroached’ on by the forest department. Sources in the vigilance organisation said they were not “satisfied” with the revenue records and have sought records from the Survey and Land Records department (Muhafiz Khana).
“There’s a contradiction in the revenue and forest records. We are first looking into who is the custodian of the land, the forest or revenue department, because some mutations have been made in the land records to change its nomenclature,” said an official in the vigilance department, on condition of anonymity.
Forest Minister Bali Bhagat agrees the revenue department has ‘fraudulently’ changed the land records because his department’s record clearly demarcates the land under Taj’s custody as forestland. Interestingly, the land in question in the forest division’s compartment no 4 is dotted with lofty conifer trees.
Taj is claiming that the land is owned by the revenue department and has claimed ownership of the land under the Roshni Act. However, the fact is that under the garb of this Act — a law vesting ownership with landless cultivators — many influential and powerful people have fraudulently grabbed state land at ridiculously low prices.
Taj is claiming the benefit of the scheme, which the Comptroller and Auditor’s report had dubbed as the “biggest ever land scam”. The Act also does not include forestland.
During the previous government, the J&K legislative council had formed a committee led by PDP legislator Murtaza Khan to probe these allegations but, under pressure, the committee was dissolved after two of its National Conference members quit.
Bali Bhagat said a notice has been served to Taj after the demarcation was conducted by the vigilance organisation. “Within 15 days, he has to evacuate the illegally occupied forestland and in case he doesn’t do so, another notice will be served to him with a 15-day deadline. In case he doesn’t respond again, then according to the law, we will take away the land from his possession,” Bhagat told Kashmir Reader.