The contentious plot near the defence ammunition depot in Nagrota, where the Army has opposed construction of a residential bungalow by, among others, top BJP leader and Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh, is a village common land — called “shamlat” — that cannot be sold under the state’s laws, it is learnt. Besides the land bought by top BJP and RSS leaders in Jammu being “shamlat’’ plot, the broker who arranged the deal said the buyers are yet to pay him.
Officials also said Nirmal Singh’s wife Mamta Singh started constructing a multi-storey bungalow on the plot without getting the building plan approved. BJP leader Singh, the former deputy CM, claimed that land bought by his wife was a “private ownership property’’, and that she has got the building plan approved from the Block Development Officer concerned.
“The approved building plan was attached while availing loan from the bank,” Singh said. Nagrota BDO Asif Amin Chandel said, “We have not given any NOC to anyone in that area, under Nadore panchayat. A letter had come from certain quarters, asking about it. We wrote back saying that no permission was given in respect to khasra number 441 (where the contentious plot is located).”
Asked whether Nirmal Singh or his wife got permission to construct the house, Jammu Development Authority’s vice-chairman R K Shewan said it is “not there in our records”. J&K Revenue Minister Ghulam Nabi Lone told The Indian Express that “shamlat’’ cannot be sold in the state. Revenue officials who claimed that some shamlat land can be sold by villagers in proportion to their own land holdings also said that members of families “who once owned 182 kanals, the maximum limit prescribed by the state government while initiating land reforms in 1950, are barred from selling it’’.
In 1950, the state had fixed the maximum limit of 182 kanals under provisions of the Abolition of Big Landed Estates Act. This limit was subsequently reduced to 100 kanals when the Agrarian Reforms Act was enacted. Naveed Ahmed, patwari of Ban village, confirmed that the disputed land was a “shamlat’’ — in khasra number 441. The sale had taken place before he was posted in Nagrota, Ahmed added.
The Indian Express had first reported on May 12 that Nirmal Singh’s wife owned land next to the Army depot. In a letter to the senior BJP leader, Corps Commander of the Army’s 16 Corps, Lt General Saranjeet Singh, asked him to halt construction on the plot since it was illegal, and was a risk to the ammunition depot and to Army personnel who live there.
According to records, of 93.11 kanals of shamlat land, over 51 kanal was sold by one Darshan Singh to Mamta Singh (4 kanals), Jyoti Parkash (2 k), Pushkar Nath Daftari (4 k), Gurpreet Kour (8 k), Manju Gupta (8 k), Jaswant Singh (6 k), Vijay Kumar Sharma (3 k and 6 marla), Jatinder Gupta (4 k), Ashish Kotwal (4 k), and Anil Gupta (4 k). Darshan alleged that he stands cheated by the buyers, as they are yet to clear the entire payment.