Legislator accuses Minister of grabbing forest land

Will Quit If Charges Proved: Taj

Publish Date: Oct 12 2012 12:00PM

Srinagar, Oct 11: Panthers Party legislator Syed Rafiq Shah Thursday accused PHE and Irrigation Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din of being in illegal possession of the forest land in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
 While the legislator displayed documents in support of his accusation in the Legislative Council, the Minister, however, rebutted the allegation and said that he will quit if the charges against him were proved.
 The Council witnessed high drama amid noisy scenes this morning when the House took up the question pertaining to the occupation of forest land in Shopian.
 While the Government maintained that no land was in illegal possession of the Minister, the legislator contested the official claim.
 “According to Revenue authorities, no illegal possession of forest land by any sitting Minister has been established in the Sedow forests. However, Forest Department has been directed to re-verify the facts,” government told the House in a written reply.
 Shah had posed the query “whether any sitting minister is in illegal possession of forest land in Sedow area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district.”
 Shah while waving the documents, reiterated that Taj Mohi-ud-Din was in illegal possession of the forest land at Sedow.
 “The Minister who has occupied the forest land can tomorrow occupy a school. This is a serious issue and House Committee should be constituted to probe it,” Shah demanded.
 “If a poor man is caught grazing cattle or bringing firewood from forests, he would be booked under Public Safety Act (PSA), but why no action is being taken against the Minister who is involved in grabbing forest land,” Shah added.
 While Shah repeatedly demanded constitution of House panel to probe the alleged land grab, the ministers from both the National Conference and Congress told him that the Forest Department is looking into the matter.
 But Shah maintained that land grab has already been established.
 On the occasion, chairman of the Council, Amrit Malhotra said that this is a serious case and he would himself examine the issue. “I will myself look into the matter,” he said.
 Later, Shah submitted the documents pertaining to the alleged occupation of the forest land in the House.
 The documents include; letter of Divisional Forest Officer Shopian addressed to Tehsildar Shopian: letter signed by Patwari and Naib Tehsildar Shopian; letter addressed by Tehsildar Shopian to Deputy Superintendent and communiqué shot off by Vigilance Organization to Tehsildar.
 “Whether any evacuation orders were passed by revenue authorities regarding evacuation of the state land of 13 kanal and 16 marlas shown recorded in revenue records as under illegal occupation,” reads the letter written by Deputy Superintendent of Police vigilance organization to Tehsildar Shopian, which is the part of the documents circulated by Shah.
 Taj was watching the proceedings on LCD in the Council lobby.
 Later, addressing the media persons, Taj termed the accusation as baseless and said that he would quit from the ministry if even the occupation of  one malra of land by him is established.
 “The trees are on the land but this doesn’t mean that it is forest land. Even some people have approached State Accountability Commission, but the case was dismissed there,” he said.
 “He (Shah) is leveling these wild allegations because I threw him out of the district Board meeting of Kupwara few months back,” Taj added.
 “The Ministers have been turned into prostitutes as anybody can level allegations against us,” he added. He also threatened to move privilege motion against Shah for leveling ‘wildest allegations’.
 Taj also circulated documents among media persons in support of his claim.
 Pertinently, the query over occupation of the land by a sitting minister was listed in business during question Hour on October 5, but was deferred due to unknown reasons.