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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Old Bhopal tense as NGO gets ownership of disputed land

On Thursday, the residents in the area who had approached the Wakf Tribunal for a stay on construction work, shut down their shops in protest. The Wakf Tribunal is scheduled to hear the ongoing title suit on January 23.

Written by Iram Siddique | Bhopal |
January 23, 2021 5:23:47 am
Old Bhopal tense, Bhopal disputed land, NGO gets disputed land, BJP leaders, VHP leaders, Bhopal news, Madhya Pradesh news, Indian express newsBarricades near the disputed site. (Express photo)

The old Bhopal area in Madhya Pradesh remained under heavy police bandobast Friday after the district administration gave possession on January 17 (Sunday) of a disputed land parcel measuring 2.88 acres, claimed to be a graveyard by Muslim community, to Rajdev Janseva Trust, an NGO, many of whose trustees are BJP and VHP leaders.

The Trust is now in the process of constructing a boundary wall and plans to build a community hall in the area.

On Thursday, the residents in the area who had approached the Wakf Tribunal for a stay on construction work, shut down their shops in protest. The Wakf Tribunal is scheduled to hear the ongoing title suit on January 23.

Earlier on Sunday, curfew had to be imposed in the jurisdiction of three police stations close to the disputed site while section 144 was invoked in several places in the area. Though the curfew was lifted Monday, people’s movement close to the disputed site remains restricted and nearby markets are shut.

Pitambar Rajdev, Vice President, Rajdev Janseva Trust, said the trust which had constructed the Sindhi colony, will develop a community hall in the disputed land.

Of the 15 members of the Trust, many hold positions in BJP, VHP and are workers of RSS. Trust member Alok Sharma, former mayor of Bhopal, is now the vice president of BJP in MP; another trustee Vishnu Khatri is the sitting BJP MLA from Berasia; Bhagwandas Sabnani, another trustee, is state general secretary of BJP; SHASHIBHAI SETH, another trustee, was the Sangh Sanchalak in RSS.

When asked about the affiliation of the trust with RSS, Pitambar Rajdev, who is a VHP Prant Pramukh, said a few members are affiliated with the RSS but the trust is an independent entity and carries out social welfare work.

“The curfew had been imposed to ward off the repeat of 2001-like situation sensing the sensitivity of the matter,” pointed out DIG Bhopal, Irshad Wali. Back then, the area had turned tense when the trust tried to take possession of the land.

When asked if the district administration can allow the possession of the disputed land when its still pending hearing in the Wakf Tribunal, a court to settle the dispute over Wakf property, Bhopal Collector Avinash Lavania said, “As per the Revenue land records, the land belongs to the Trust and there is no stay from any court that prohibits them from going ahead and taking possession. The issue of receiver has been resolved by the SDM; hence, legally, the trust was well within its rights to construct a boundary wall to take possession of its property.”

However, Sarwat Sharif Khan, lawyer at the Madhya Pradesh Wakf Board said the matter to decide the final owner of the land (title suite) was sub-judice before the Wakf Tribunal, the highest court to settle the dispute of Wakf properties. “The next hearing is on January 23. However, the Trust illegally took possession of the disputed land with the help of the district administration,” he alleged.

According to the government officials, as per the Revenue records of 1964-65, the 6.5-acre disputed land was registered in the name of one Faiyaz Ali Shah who allegedly sold it to Vishambar Lal, head of the Rajdev family, which purchased the land and later formed the trust in 1964 for Rs 35,000. It had then assured not to demolish the two existing graves.

Five years after in 1969, Vishmanbar Lal got the land use changed from the Nagar Nigam getting permission to construct a colony. It was then in 2001 that he allocated 2.88 acres of land to Rajdev Janseva Trust.

Faiyaz Ali Shah was also mentioned as the caretaker of the graveyard in 1964-65 records which exist on the 6.5 acres of land but not demarcated.

According to Sarwat Sharif Khan, lawyer of Madhya Pradesh Wakf Board, the then Nawab of Bhopal Sultan Jaha Begum had in 1915-16 declared the disputed land as a graveyard in her official decree and Faiyaz Ali Shah was merely the caretaker of the graveyard, and had no right to sell the land as claimed by the Trust owners.

The land was declared a Wakf property (graveyard) in 1974 by the Wakf Board survey. As per the laws governing Wakf property, any patch of land wrongly notified as Wakf property has to be de-notified within a year, however, Sharif argued that till date the board has not received any application from the alleged owner of the disputed land.

On Monday, a day after the trust took possession of the land, the Wakf Tribunal issued it a notice to present itself before the Tribunal and clear its stand on the recent possession of the land. The notice was issued after Mohammad Suleman, who had in 2015 challenged the trust’s ownership of the land, once again approached the Tribunal stating that recent work being carried out at the disputed site is illegal as the title suite is sub-judice before the court.

“When the next date of hearing before the high court is in February, the matter is clearly sub-judice in this case, how can the trust be given possession,” said Rizwan Mohammad, son of Suleman Mohammad.

Bansilal Israni, legal advisor of the Trust said, “Following the SDM’s order, when the property was attached and both parties were asked to get the dispute settled, we approached the Bhopal Civil Court and won the case in 2003.”

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