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J&K land crackdown zeroes in on 4 ex-CMs, Rs 210 crore assets retrieved from Farooq Abdullah kin 

Bulldozers deployed to clear land that had been encroached by the rich and powerful in Kashmir

Srinagar: The Government action on retrieving State and Community lands from illegal occupants and taking over commercial assets from them has zeroed in on close relatives of four former Chief Ministers in Jammu and Kashmir.

On Tuesday alone, the authorities retrieved land properties worth Rs 510 crore in Srinagar which included prime assets worth Rs 210 crore allegedly grabbed by former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah’s relatives.

The State and Community lands, spread over 5 lakh hectares (20 lakh kanals), are being retrieved from illegal occupants in compliance to an order of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court for which the Union Territory’s Revenue Department on 9 January fixed the deadline of 31 January 2023. The land grabbers include a number of the relatives of the former Chief Ministers, Ministers, legislators, bureaucrats and Police officers.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has directed the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) to retrieve only the lands grabbed by “powerful individuals with misuse of their position and influence” and spare the “ordinary, poor people who have encroached small pieces of land” in the first phase of the operation.

The properties retrieved in the last seven days include 2 kanals of the State land from the former Minister and National Conference (NC) leader Ali Mohammad Sagar in Srinagar and 32 kanals from the former Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta in Jammu.

On Tuesday, authorities in Jammu served notices on a number of influential persons and businessmen including senior BJP leader Abdul Gani Kohli who functioned as a Cabinet Minister in the PDP-BJP Government.

Srinagar District administration said that State and Community lands over 492 kanal, valued at Rs 509.90 crore, were retrieved from different illegal occupants in seven Tehsils of Srinagar on Tuesday alone. Two of the alleged land grabbers are close relatives of the former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah.

Bulldozers appeared at sprawling premises of the once iconic Nedous Hotel on the Maulana Azad Road in Srinagar, demolished illegal structures and removed encroachments from 40 kanals of the State land, adjacent to Kashmir Golf Course. Officials said that the chunk of the State land had been illegally grabbed by Farooq Abdullah’s maternal cousin Umer Khalil Nedou.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Aijaz Assad said that the authorities did not touch an adjacent area of 133 kanals, which had been lawfully leased out to the Nedous.

“We retrieved only 40 kanals of the adjacent State land which the lessee had illegally occupied. Titles and positions were crosschecked multiple times before proceeding with the retrieval of the land. Everything has been conducted lawfully”, DC Srinagar said. Officials valued the land of 40 Kanal retrieved from the Nedous at Rs 160 crore.

A portion of the land leased out to the now defunct Nedous Hotel has been subsequently leased to India Tobacco Company Ltd (ITC) which is reportedly planning to build and operate a new hotel of 114 rooms with 20 deluxe rooms to revive the heritage property.

The original lessee Umer Khalil is the nephew of Farooq Abdullah’s mother, late Begum Akbar Jehan. Umer’s daughter, who died young in 2016, was married to the son of Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmad Patel.

Kahcharai land, measuring 36 kanal and valued at Rs 50 crore, was retrieved from the possession of the former bureaucrat Hashmatullah Khan and his brother Dr Munir Khan at Rakh-e-Zakura, in North Tehsil of Srinagar.

Hashmatullah Khan served as Vice Chancellor of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology after his retirement as Commissioner-Secretary to the State Government. Khan’s son, who was a doctor and died in the United States of America in 2021, was the husband of Farooq Abdullah’s niece.

State land measuring 26 kanal at Ahal in Srinagar and valued at Rs 26 crore was retrieved from Bilal Ahmad and others, who according to the official documents are ‘land brokers’. Four kanals of State land at Tashwan, in Fatehkadal area of Srinagar, was retrieved from Nazir Ahmad Mir and others. It was valued at Rs 16 crore. State land measuring 8 kanal and valued at Rs 32 crore was retrieved from Nazir Ahmad Mir and others at Nursingh Garh. One unauthorised structure was demolished and one heritage building sealed at the premises originally leased out to a Pandit.

Multi-floor hotels, Hotel Inn and Hotel Goodwill, built on the occupied Kahcharai land and valued at Rs 25 crore were retrieved and sealed at Brarinambal in Srinagar.

A patch of 6 Kanal of State land was retrieved from Common Club House—some officials called it Common Cause Trust—at Rakh-e-Gund Aksha, Tehsil Central Shalteng, Srinagar. It was valued at Rs 9 crore. Officials said that an adjacent area of 10 Kanal was shown as allotted by the then Director of Rakhs and Parks to the NGO of the then Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar in 1989. However its possession was taken by Mr Sagar in 2011 when he was again a Minister.

Officials said that the allotment of 10 kanal of State land was under investigation and it was not touched.

One of the senior most leaders of the NC, Sagar has functioned as MLA for 6 consecutive terms since 1983. In 1989-90 and 2009-2014, he functioned as a Minister in Farooq Abdullah’s government. He is the first former Minister whose outhouse, allegedly built on a piece of 2 Kanal of State land, was demolished at Humhama, near Srinagar Airport last week.

A piece of the Kahcharai land, allegedly occupied by the former Minister and President of J&K Pradesh Congress Committee Peerzada Mahammad Sayeed was retrieved on Tuesday at Arad Khoshipora in Anantnag district.

Shamilat land of 2 kanal and 7 marlas, allegedly annexed by the former Chief Minister and the Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti’s relative, Syed Farooq Andrabi, was retrieved at Shistergam, Dooru, in Anantnag district. Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s brother-in-law, Andrabi himself served as MLA and Minister.

Authorities also retrieved 15 kanals of Shamilat land which had been allegedly occupied by the legatees of the former Chief Minister Syed Mir Qasim at Dooru, Anantnag.

In the Jammu capital, authorities said that 326 kanals of State and Community land were retrieved from different encroachers on Tuesday.