Entrenched land grabbers

Corruption in the polity has not one or tow but many dimensions. Discreet nexuses have been formed by perpetrators of bribery and corruption. By and large it is difficult for law enforcing agencies to catch them. Additionally, even if they are caught, their legal prosecution is a complicated and lengthy process and the social stigma attached to corrupt practices, which normally would serve as deterrent, becomes ineffective. A society reeling under widespread culture of corruption and bribery is steadily working towards its self-destruction. Our judicial system is very complicated and justice is often delayed if not denied. Moral values have shrunk, social stigma has been trivialized and the society has become introvert.

For quiet some time, media and other outlets of civil society have been raising eyebrow on the menace of land grabbing in the state. Their voice was hardly heard. Leave aside action against the miscreants, even simplest enquiry into major land grabbing incidents remained stalled. The reason is that in this sordid affair not only small and lower rung revenue officials are involved but the real actors are the high and the mighty that want to be outside the reach of law. A nexus among politically influential, monetarily affluent and socially pervasive class, on one hand and sections of bureaucracy and politicians with scant nationalistic credentials on the other, have ganged up in an unholy alliance to carry forward general loot of public property in the shape of forest and khalsa lands. Though we in this state have had rather a meticulous revenue record maintained scrupulously during the monarchical rule, and it has always been considered authentic and dependable evidence of possession, yet unfortunately owing to non-accountability, even the revenue records have been tampered with in most of the land grabbing cases. Revenue authorities should have taken timely steps of ensuring that these misdeeds were detected and culprits punished severely. That was never done, with the result that the general loot of forest and khalsa land continued. Today we are helplessly crying over the vandalizing of our national assets. Land grabbing has grown into an institution which the society seems to be forced to allow legitimization.

Some time back in a Public Interest Litigation case, the matter of land grabbing by the land mafia was brought to the High Court. During the court proceedings, the Divisional Commissioner of Jammu filed an affidavit as desired by the court. But the court returned the affidavit pointing out that it did not respond to what was required to be stated under law. Now after a gap of time the Divisional Commissioner has come with revised affidavit in the same case, and the court has asked the petitioners to respond to it. The interesting point is that in his fresh affidavit the Divisional Commissioner has specified holdings transacted with khasra numbers and the measurements etc. The court, one may say, is at liberty to ask why the information was suppressed in its first affidavit and then it has sprung in the second one? Was there maneuvering at some level by functionaries with vested interests? Why did the revenue officials try to mislead the court and circumvent the core of the issue? It will be a sad commentary on the state of affairs if the land grabbing mafia tries and succeeds to influence the opinion of the court of law by managing to suppress some vital parts of information.

The people of this State have faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. That is a safety valve they have against being subjected to injustice and violation of rights and the politicians and bureaucracy having failed them. We have no hesitation in reiterating that a strong, widespread and active nexus of land grabbers is at work in the State. It is extraordinarily powerful and influential. All victimized people cannot go to a court of law to seek redress of their grievance; only well off people with time and manpower can go to the court and cool their heels for months and years to receive justice if it comes at all. Therefore the Government will be obliged to evolve a mechanism of thwarting the efforts of land grabbers and bringing them to book on account of charges of corruption. We are aware that owing to population explosion and large scale migration to urban areas there is great demand on land and its price has skyrocketed in recent days. There is scarcity of land in the proximity of the city of Jammu and other towns. People need a shelter and thus the pressure on land. This is the phenomenon but the Government must move in to address the entire matter and not allow the loot of state land.


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