Bhopal: A curfew was imposed in the old city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh on January 17 after a trust run by the leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders began construction work on the 2.88 acres of disputed land, claimed to be a graveyard, in the presence of heavy police deployment.
Even after five days of the curfew, tension continues to prevail in the locality. Shops have remained closed and police restricted the entry of locals into the lane which led to the disputed site. Sensing the gravity of the issue, the district administration has deployed heavy police force in the Sindhi Colony area of old Bhopal.
The RSS-backed Rajdev Janseva Trust, which has taken possession of the disputed land has been constructing the boundary wall and a community hall on the disputed land. However, the land still has a few graves of made of brick.
On January 16, Bhopal District Collector Avinash Lavania had issued a notice and imposed curfew in the jurisdiction of three police stations, Hanumanganj, Chola Mandir and Shahjahanabad and invoked section 144 in eight police stations close to the disputed sites.
“The curfew had been imposed after district collector's order to ward off the repeat of 2001 like situation sensing the sensitivity of the matter,” DIG Bhopal, Irshad Wali was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
In 2001, a law and order situation had emerged after the trust members and RSS office bearers attempted to take possession of the land and locals opposed it claiming it a graveyard, explained DIG Wali in the IE report.
After the clash, the police had detained 35 people of the trust and attached the disputed land to the Hanumanganj police station in-charge under section 145 of the CrPc and asked both the parties to settle their dispute in the Bhopal Civil Court, Wali added.
A day after the curfew, on Monday, January 18, Mohammad Suleman, a petitioner, who had approached the Wakf tribunal in 2015 to decide the title suite of the disputed land, moved an application against the ongoing construction and demanded an immediate stay on it. In return, the Tribunal issued notice to the Trust, but extended it from January 21 to January 23.
The title suite of the disputed land is underway at Wakf Tribunal, an exclusive court to resolve the cases related to Waft property, filed by Mohammad Suleman.
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The Rajdev Janseva Trust, which is taking possession of the land is run by the RSS and the ruling BJP leaders. Out of the 15 members of Trust, three trustees are from BJP -- Alok Sharma, vice president of BJP in MP and former mayor; Vishnu Khatri, sitting BJP MLA from Berasia; and Bhagwandas Sabnani, state general secretory of BJP in MP. While the vice president of the Rajdev Janseva Trust, Pitambar Rajdev is Prant Pramukh of Vishwa Hindu Prasihad and Shashibhai Seth is the senior office bearer of the RSS, while other members are associated with the RSS in various capacities.
Interestingly, on January 15, two days before the curfew, Pitambar Rajdev, VP of the trust, met with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan along with Vinayak Rao Deskhmukh, National President of the VHP for collecting donation for construction of Ram Temple in Bhopal.
On being asked how the district administration allowed the possession of a disputed land, which is sub-judice before the Waft Tribunal, Collector Lavania said, “1964-65 Revenue records suggests that the land belongs to Faiyaz Ali, who sold it to Vishambar Lal in 1964. More so, Bhopal Civil Court has given the verdict in favour of the Trust and there is no stay from any court that prohibits them from going ahead and taking possession."
Requesting anonymity, a senior government officer said that the Revenue records of 1964-65, the disputed land was registered in the name of Faiyaz Ali Shah who allegedly sold it the Vishambar Lal in 1964 for Rs 35,000, assuring not to demolish the two existing graves, which was of his ancestors.
"There is a mention of graveyard in the 6.5 acres of land owned by Faiyaz Ali in the Revenue Records, who was also the caretaker of the graveyard. But there is no demarcation of graveyard in the particular khasra number or plot number in the records," the officer added.
While the Madhya Pradesh Wakf Board records reveal that the nawab of Bhopal State, Sultanjaha Begum, in 1915-16 had declared the disputed land as a graveyard in her official decree.
The officer claimed that as per the Revenue Records, on September 5, 1949, the Bhopal State has given the 6.5 acres of patch of land to Faiyaz Ali as Malguzari (revenue land).
Sarwat Sharif Khan, lawyer of the State Wakf board claimed, "The nawab of Bhopal has declared 2.88 acres of disputed land out of total 6.5 acres of land in 1915-16 and Faiyaz Ali Shah was merely the caretaker of the graveyard who had no right to sell the land as claimed by the trust owners."
In 1969, the Vishambar Lal diverted the land by taking permission from Bhopal Municipal Corporation and Town and Country Planning Department for building a colony. He left 2.88 acres of land for the construction of park and community hall. But, later, he transferred the land to the Trust, the officials said.
The dispute deepened when the Madhya Pradesh Wakf Board in 1974 survey declared the disputed land as a graveyard and declared it Wakf property. "As per the Wakf laws, any land or property, wrongly notified as Wakf property has to be dewakf (denotify) within a year, however, even after five decades, the board has not received any application from the alleged owner of the disputed land," said Sarwat Sharif Khan.
“The matter to decide the final owner of the land (title suite) is sub-judice before the Wakf Tribunal and the next hearing is on January 23. However, the Trust illegally took the possession of the disputed land with the help of district administration,” he further alleged.
Commenting over the issue, Bansilal Israni, the advocate of the Trust said that after the 2001 incident, where the clash broke out and 35 people were arrested, the SDM had asked both the parties to settle the dispute from the Civil Court and appointed Hanumanganj police station in-charge as a receiver.
"The court delivered the verdict in favour of Trust in 2003. More so, when a petitioner Mohammad Suleman moved a stay application in the Wakf Tribunal in August 2018, the court rejected it. Later, we urged the SDM to remove the receiver as the Bhopal Civil Court has given the verdict in Trust's favour," said Bansilal.
“Following the SDM’s order, we urged the district collector in January 2021 to provide protection so that the Trust can take possession,” he added.
Nevertheless, Sarwat argued that the 2003 Civil Court verdict which was in favour of the Trust, the Waft Board was not the party. It was fought by the local residents. “Hence, the verdict of the court does not abide with the Wakf Board and it's still a wakf property in our records,” according to him.
The case took another twist in 2015, when a resident of Sindhi Colony, Mohammad Suleman filed a petition before the Wakf Tribunal claiming all 6.5 acres of land as a graveyard and was made party to the Wakf Board including Rajdev Janseva Trust, Bhopal Municipal Corporation, Town and Country Planning Department and others, resulting in the title suite to decide the owner of the land to continue in the Wakf tribunal.
Suleman also moved a stay application in Jabalpur High Court on the disputed land and next hearing of the case is in February 23.
“When the title suite is before the Wakf Tribunal and stay application already scheduled for February, how the administration can give possession to the Trust," asked Mohammad Rizwan, son of Mohammad Suleman.
"The trust which is governed by the RSS and the BJP leaders is illegally taking possession of the disputed land," Rizwan lamented, adding that the RSS office of Bhopal division 'Keshav Nidom' lies across the street of the disputed land.
"How can someone take possession of our graveyard by force, which is also present in the 1964-65 Revenue records, where our ancestors are buried and a few graves are still there," he questioned.