Army personnel have “taken over” a piece of land from BJP MLA Manvendra Singh over which a legal battle was on. On Saturday night, over 15 Army personnel forcibly took over the plot, according to caretaker Kishan Singh.
“Early this morning I found it taken over by the Army. I was not allowed to go in. Other villagers complained that their area was also encroached,” Kishan said over phone. The villagers have filed a police complaint.
Manvendra, the son of former defence minister Jaswant Singh — who is fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Barmer as an Independent — claims he bought the land in 2011 from a third party who was the “original owner” for decades. The land is in Hapon ki Dhani, 8 km from Barmer town.
Manvendra started construction in 2012 but the Army claimed ownership and both approached a Jodhpur court which stayed further construction.
Army sources said the land was part of 214 bighas acquired from the state government in 1981, of which 188 bighas were fenced in 2010 and the remaining 26 bighas were left out in an oversight. Army officials said the disputed plot of 8 bighas formed part of the unfenced 26 bighas.
Manvendra said, “When the Army objected in 2012, I took them to court which ruled in my favour. However, construction was stayed with the Army citing security reasons,” Manvendra said.
“Local military authorities know the ground reality and have been supportive. This action has been taken by someone else.”
Manvendra’s lawyer Dungar Singh Mahecha said, “The Army in disregard of court ruling arbitrarily took over the plot. We will file a contempt of court petition.”
Defence spokesperson Colonel S D Goswami said, “We are carrying out collective training exercise in the general area. We would not like to comment on the disputed plot as the matter is sub judice.”
Sources close to Manvendra alleged a political conspiracy. Sympathisers in the BJP said the father-son duo are being targeted for Jaswant Singh’s act of contesting as an independent. Sources hinted at Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje targeting them. Leaders of Singh’s community said Manvendra, being a former defence correspondent and son of a former defence minister, was unlikely to have committed any irregularity.
Earlier, the BJP state unit alleged Manvendra was campaigning for his father against party’s official candidate in Barmer despite being a BJP MLA and threatened to expel him.