Not involved in temple land grab, says Jammu civic body; BJP also supports high-level probe
Jammu: Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) on Sunday clarified that it was in no way involved in the alleged attempts to grab prime land of an ancient temple in the heart of the city as BJP joined its rival Congress to seek a high-level probe into the incident.
However, the Congress staged a sit-in and took out a rally in support of its demand, accusing the saffron party of trying to dilute the issue to “shield the culprits”.
The case came to light after Suresh Kumar Sharma, a retired district and sessions judge, recently approached the local court to restrain the BJP-led JMC from “grabbing” the prime piece of land of Panchvaktra Mahadev temple.
Sharma, who was appointed as the caretaker of the temple by the J&K High Court in December 2008, said the municipal corporation has fraudulently claimed that the temple’s property belonged to it and subsequently, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) invited bids for multilevel car parking system and commercial complex at the property of the temple.
Clarifying its stand, JMC Commissioner Avny Lavasa said it was in no way involved in alleged attempts to encroach the land of the temple at Panjbakhtar. “JMC has neither staked any claim to this land nor involved in any parking project that is to be made on this land,” Lavasa said.
Under attack from Congress which had demanded a high-level probe, registration of an FIR and sacking of JMC Mayor Chander Mohan Gupta over the issue, J&K BJP Vice-President Yudhvir Sethi condemned the land grabbing attempts by “vested interests” and sought legal action against them.
He urged the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to hold an impartial inquiry into the entire case on how tenders have been floated without following necessary guidelines and clearance of No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from various government departments.
“There are some anti-social elements in connivance with some people in administration who have made a deliberate attempt to build a parking lot on the land of Panchbakhtar Mandir, the oldest temple in the city dedicated to Lord Shiva. Such an act has hurt the sentiments of the Hindu community,” Sethi told reporters here.
He said the party has shown serious concern over the issue and immediately took up the matter with NHIDCL, which had floated the tenders of multilevel car project and was forced to cancel the tender.
“The BJP stands with devotees of Panchbakhtar Mandir and will never allow anyone to play with the sentiments of Hindu community,” he said.
Without naming anyone, he said some leaders of political parties are indulging in “rumour mongering” to spread hatred among different communities to satiate their own “vested interest”.
Sethi, however, expressed resentment against the alleged encroachment and demolishing of land and property of ancient temples in Kashmir by land mafia.
“Since the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, properties belonging to several shrines have been encroached upon by people,” he claimed and appealed to the L-G to immediately order restoration of the glory of ancient temples in the Valley.
Dismissing the JMC clarification as an “eye-wash”, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said it was an attempt to shield those responsible behind attempts to illegally grab the temple land worth crores of rupees for construction of commercial complex and parking in connivance with big private players.
“The government has not cleared the title of land of the temple but only Jammu Development Authority (JDA), a subordinate office writes to the higher office of divisional commissioner to verify the title, while the JMC has tried to pull out of the issue after the entire conspiracy got exposed, without explaining how all through it was silent and who claimed title of the land in favour of JMC, without its knowledge,” Sharma said in a statement.
Reiterating his party’s demand for a high-level probe, he said the basic issue is how the entire machinery of J&K administration and the NHIDCL, a PSU of Government of India, went ahead to the extent of floating tenders clandestinely and without the notice of caretaker and permission of the court.
“BJP which always used religion as a tool for politics cannot escape the liability without sacking those behind the whole episode,” he said alleging that the party is trying to cover up and dilute the serious issue to save the culprits.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders on Sunday staged a two-hour sit-in inside the temple and later took out a protest march in support of its demand for resignation of the JMC mayor, a high-level inquiry and action against all those involved in the incident.