Govt’s VIP demolition drive begins with Sagar’s house

TNN Bureau. Updated: 1/26/2023 1:49:13 AM Front Page

Family calls it ‘illegal’, part of political blackmail against NC’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Jammu: Authorities have started the Government’s campaign to retrieve State and community lands from illegal possession of ‘powerful persons’ with the demolition of the senior National Conference (NC) leader and former Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar’s two-storey outhouse at Humhama in the Budgam district on Wednesday.
According to eyewitnesses, demolition squads of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation under the supervision of the Revenue authorities Budgam appeared at Sagar’s residential house at Humhama, outside the Srinagar Airport, in the afternoon. Sagar’s security personnel and personal staff were asked to move out of the two-storey outhouse. The bull-dozers demolished the house along with its compound wall and gate.
This is for the first time in the Union Territory’s history that a senior political leader and former Minister’s property was dismantled by a government in Jammu and Kashmir. The demolition drive and retrieval of the State and community lands from illegal possession of the most powerful persons began days after the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s announcement that only those people who had misused their power and position would be evicted. The LG has asserted that the “poor and ordinary” people would not be touched.
Sagar is one of the senior most leaders of the NC, currently holding the position of General Secretary in the party. He began his political career after graduation in law from the University of Kashmir in 1977 as General Secretary of the NC’s youth wing, J&K Youth Federation, which was subsequently christened as J&K Youth National Conference. In 1983, he contested and won his first Assembly election from the then Zainakadal constituency with over 90% of the votes in his favour. In 1987, he contested and won his second Assembly election from the same NC stronghold. In 1989, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah inducted him as Minister of State for Information.
Later, Sagar also won the Assembly elections of 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014. In 1996-2002 and 2009-2014, he functioned as a Cabinet Minister respectively in Farooq Abdullah’s and Omar Abdullah’s government.
According to officials as well as the politician’s family, Sagar acquired a vast chunk of land at Humhama, on Srinagar-Airport Road, built a residential mansion and began living in it in 2009 when he was a Minister in Omar Abdullah’s cabinet. Later he also raised a two-storey outhouse on the anterior of the same premises for his personal and security staff.
Sagar’s politician son, Salman Ali Sagar, who functioned as Mayor in Srinagar Municipal Corporation for a term till 2010, described the government’s action as “illegal”.
“This is totally illegal for numerous reasons. First, our outhouse was built on proprietary land of 3 Kanal and 18 Marlas which we have lawfully acquired. Just 3 or 4 Marlas in this Khasra is titled as ‘Shamilaat’ which is duly entered and registered under rules. Officials could have demarcated it and asked us to vacate it. Second, we have not received any notice of eviction or dispossession. Third, our entire security staff was removed from the premises and the security of my father, other family members and their residential house was compromised. Fourth, the demolition was carried out when none of the family was present”, Salman Sagar said.
Salman Sagar said that he, his father and other family members were busy in Delhi with a critical surgery of his sister who had met with an accident in Kolkata.
“As they saw that there was none of us, they swooped on our house and demolished it. In the next 2-3 days, we will produce documents at a press conference and prove that it is our lawfully acquired property which has been registered by a judge and all building permissions have been issued with NOCs of all concerned department’s before I became Mayor in 2008. We don’t have much faith in the system but still we will approach a court of law and establish that the government officials committed trespass and demolished a genuine property”, Salman Sagar added on phone from New Delhi.
“This is nothing but part of a political blackmail as we have resisted all pressures built on us to quit the NC and join a particular party. We were promised 20 PSOs and other protections if we agreed. But we can’t go against our conscience”, Salman added.
Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, Syed Fakhr-ud-din Hamid, told The News Now that today’s eviction and demolition drive was “completely legal”. He claimed that several eviction notices had been delivered on the family in the last three months. “We took action only after the respondents failed to demolish the unauthorised structures and did not vacate the Kahcharai land”, DC Budgam said. He asserted that the drive “against all encroachers including all VIPs” would continue as per a sequence of the Khasra numbers.
As per a Government order, issued on 9 January 2023 in compliance with several court orders, DCs have been directed to retrieve all State and community lands grabbed by encroachers within a deadline of 31 January. The order has been challenged in the J&K High Court as well as the Supreme Court of India. However, no stay orders against the proposed eviction have been issued till date.

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