ibnlive » India

Mar 19, 2012 at 08:22am IST

Multi-crore temple land scam hits Jammu and Kashmir government

Srinagar: After the cricket scam, a multi-crore temple land mafia scandal has hit the Jammu and Kashmir government. Properties of the erstwhile Dogra dynasty are gradually slipping into the hands of an organized land mafia that includes temple trusts, revenue and judicial officials.

Acres of prime land belonging to Mahavir Ji temple in Srinagar and owned by the Sanathan Dharam Pratap Sabha have been sold off, by a leading Jammu businessman who claims to head the trust. The sale has gone through flouting the Migrant Immovable Properties Act that puts a lid on distress sale.

CNN-IBN has documents to show how some elements in the trust doled out several power of attorneys to buyers and managed sale deeds in connivance with revenue officials. Activist and President of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti Sanjay Tikoo has taken several such land frauds to court, he has even written letters to the President and Prime Minister, but to no avail.

"In the last few years, we came across at least 150 documents which clearly showed that without the help of politicians, revenue officials, a retired high court judge and some bureaucrats in revenue departments it is difficult for the land mafia to grab the property and sell it," Tikoo said.

After the mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits from the Valley, temple trusts and some non-state priests have taken control of Rs 10,000 crore worth temple assets in the state. CNN-IBN investigations reveals some trusts have not even held elections to their governing bodies for 20 years.

Temple land like this where hundreds of houses have mushroomed up were sold at throwaway prices after the so-called trust keepers enjoying official patronage ensured total vandalism of the religious properties.

But the state administration is blaming low level officials.

Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir Asghar Samoon said, "I do not know how they are managing to get the sale deeds registered in the civil courts which is not to be done because of migrant lands. I don't rule out connivance of lower officials of revenue especially at Patwari level."

A few such cases are being probed by Crime Branch department but curiously the land sales have not stopped.