Accusing the Indian Air Force (IAF) of “using criminal intimidation” and “violence” for “gheraoing” its land, the Indian Polo Association (IPA) has moved a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, seeking an immediate end to all construction activity by the Air Force on its land.
The IPA notes that “under the garb of security for the Air Force Station”, the IAF is “building a 7-foot wall between the Delhi Race Club and the Jaipur Polo Ground”, in a way that amounts to encircling its polo ground. The 15.2 acres that house the polo ground is nestled between the Delhi Race Club and the Air Force Station. The land has been leased by the Urban Development Ministry to the IPA. The IAF has a golf club on the adjoining ground as its golfers often move onto the polo ground to play golf.
The IAF has not denied the construction of the wall, but said it is only for security purposes. This contention was rejected by the association. The IPA has sought a “writ of Mandamus” directing the Air Force “to cease all construction” and “all golfing activity” on the Jaipur Polo Ground, and “remove all constructions and fill up all holes dug in order to restore the ground to its state pre-construction”.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Air Force Station’s Chief Administrative Officer Aditya Jain declined to comment.
IPA’s Delhi Zone Steward Adhiraj Singh said, “Without even informing the IPA, the Air Force has been arbitrarily building a fence on land that belongs to IPA. Their golf players play on our land. They are using their muscle power to build a fence only for facilitating their golf players.”
IPA member Buchi Prakash said, “Once the Air Force completes its fencing, they can restrict access to our land anytime. If they have security concerns, they should build fence on their land and safeguard their station. Why do they encircle our land?”
The tiff began when the Air Force began constructing the wall in March. On March 19, Adhiraj Singh had sent a letter to Air Force’s Station’s Commanding Officer Pawan Mohay about the “illegalities” and attempt to “encroach on the land leased to IPA”. Air Force officers, Singh wrote, “intimidated our representatives and criminally trespassed on our property”.
He added, “It is a matter of great regret that whenever our representatives have tried to remove these illegal encroachments, they have been threatened by Air Force staff.”
In his July 14 reply to the IPA, Aditya Jain wrote that the construction of the security wall was undertaken considering “the security threats to defence installations in the country, specifically post the attack on AF Station Pathankot”, and was “sanctioned by the MoUD in Annual Major Works Programme”.
Jain said the IPA is “currently objecting to construction”, but said this is “perhaps based on the apprehension that once the subject wall/fence is constructed, access to the polo ground area, which till date, is jointly used by both IAF and Polo Association would be restricted”.
Jain added that the “construction is solely for enhancing physical security of AF Station”, and “not to delineate or mark the boundary/perimeter of AF camp or encroach any portion of the subject land”.
The IPA said if there was any security concern, the Air Force should have constructed the wall “between Jaipur Polo Ground and the Air Force Station”. “It is exploiting the security angle to encroach on property which does not
belong to them…,” said the IPA.
Rejecting the Air Force’s contention that “the land is in joint use”, the IPA termed it “a complete fabrication” which “highlights the intention” of Air Force “to convert the Jaipur Polo Ground into its own property”.
The IPA also said that since the Air Force is constructing the wall on “property belonging to a third party” without “any authority and permission”, there is a “gross financial impropriety”. It claimed the IAF “has resorted to intimidation tactics to cow down (its) employees”. “…The ‘behaviour’ of the IAF “is contrary to the values of integrity and honour espoused by the Armed Forces”.