Farooq, Omar residence built on ‘illegally encroached’ State land

Former Judge’s son, ex J&K Bank Chairman also part of cluster

Cong, NC offices among Roshni beneficiaries

Neeraj Rohmetra
JAMMU, Nov 24: Jammu and Kashmir Government in a high-level probe has unravelled a cluster of illegal encroachments in Jammu city allegedly involving influential politicians, businessmen and relatives of judicial officers. The list of ‘encroachers’ also included the name of former Chief Ministers — Farooq Abdullah and his son, Omar Abdullah.
The probe was initiated after strings of directions by a bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal to the administration for investigation into the usurpation and encroachment of State land by influential persons.
Reliable sources in the Revenue Department, who shared the details of probe said, “the private residence of the Farooq Abdullah had been built on State/forest land”, adding, “in 1998 Abdullah had bought three kanals of land from different owners, on a private khasra number 21 situated at different locations in village Sunjwan, Jammu. However, the senior leader instead of taking possession of over three kanals of this private land encroached upon more than seven kanals of nearby prime state and forest land. “.
The probe further revealed that subsequently several high-profile politicians, who were close to power circles also managed to encroach land in the vicinity of residence of NC patriarch thereby creating a cluster of illegal encroachers.
The probe revealed, “these encroachers included another National Conference leader, Syed Ali Akhoon, who allegedly illegally occupied one kanal of Government land and Ashfaq Ahmed Mir, son of former retired High Court Judge Ali Mohammad Mir, who also occupied one kanal of State land”.
Other influential persons, who allegedly encroached land in the vicinity included former Advocate General Aslam Goni (one kanal), ex-Chairman of J&K Bank, M Y Khan (1.5 kanal) and famous hotelier Mushtaq Chaya (1.5 kanal). “In all these cluster of encroachers, the land had been physically encroached but not shown in revenue records”, sources pointed out.
The name of the top leadership of National Conference comes close on the heels of another list of Roshni Act beneficiaries, which included the offices of National Conference in the twin capital cities.
The list had revealed the party had raised its party headquarters ‘Nawai-e-Subah’ on State land of three kanal in Kothibagh, Srinagar and even the Jammu office ‘Sher-e-Kashmir’ Bhawan located at Vir Marg had been built on land acquired by National Conference’s leader late Sheikh Nazir Ahmed under the Roshni Scheme. Rights of both these land were transferred by paying less than one-fourth of the cost calculated by the Price-Fixation Committee.
Sources also said, “Suraiya Mattoo, wife of Dr Ali Mattoo and sister of Dr Farooq Abdullah had also applied for regularisation of 3 kanals and 12 marlas of land, but later didn’t deposit the amount of Rs 1 crore required for regularisation and mutation attestation of the said land”.
“Even Congress party had also bought seven kanals of land for party-controlled Khidmat Trust in Kothibagh, Srinagar under the Roshni Act and in this case also the party managed to get heavy discount”, source confirmed.
In New Delhi, senior BJP leader and Union Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad while reacting to these reports demanded a thorough probe into the alleged ‘Roshni scam’. He said that names of several top politicians including former State Ministers from the Congress and the NC have come to the fore for allegedly benefiting from the Roshni Act, which has since been struck down by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 is also known as the Roshni Act. “There was a conscious loot by powerful people of forest land and getting benefits under the Roshni Act, which has been declared unconstitutional by the High Court,” Prasad told reporters. The Union Minister said it is the lowest ebb in a democratic polity. “We condemn it outright,” he added.
Demanding a thorough probe, Prasad said the land should be taken back from the beneficiaries as directed by the High Court. He said while declaring the law unconstitutional, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had said that the names of people who had acquired land under the Act be listed and made public. “Names of various politicians of J&K have appeared in that list,” he said, naming former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, his sister and various Congress and NC leaders including Haseeb Drabu.
However, Abdullah’s son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, while reacting to the list, denied that his father benefited from the Roshni Act.
Reacting to news reports, National Conference (NC) spokesman stated that Dr Farooq Abdullah is not a beneficiary of the Roshni Act and the rumour was being spread with malicious intent. Dr Abdullah had not availed Roshni Scheme either for his Srinagar or Jammu residence.
Meanwhile, former Senior bureaucrat Khurshid Ahmed Ganai today clarified that he isn’t beneficiary under the Roshni Scheme as was mentioned in an earlier news report.