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Land grab slur on Siliguri realtors
Apartment blocks on the controversial plot of land A Telegraph picture

Siliguri, Sept. 26: Members of a local Muslim organisation today claimed that a five-acre plot at Bhanunagar that was once a burial ground had been encroached upon by a realtor group.

Representatives of Anjuman Khidmat-e-Khalque told newspersons today that they had filed a suit on May 7 against the Begraj Group of Companies for its alleged encroachment of the burial ground in Ward 43 of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC).

“As the Muslim population in Bhanunagar is considerably small and the dead are taken to the municipal burial ground off Burdwan Road, we did not know about the encroachment on five acres of the 7.15-acre plot till April,” said Hasim Ansari, the secretary of the organisation.

The case was filed at the court of the civil judge (senior division) in Jalpaiguri where the plea for an injunction on the plot was rejected. “We then appealed to the Jalpaiguri district court, which on August 1 granted status quo,” said Tapan Kayal, the lawyer representing the organisation. “We will now ask for a commission to inspect the plot and submit a report to the court and seek police help to ensure that the status quo is not violated.”

A khatian (record with the land and land reforms department) furnished by the organisation describes the plot (number 254) as a kabarsthan (burial ground).

Officials of Sarda Commercial Pvt Ltd (SCPL), a constituent unit of the Begraj Group that set up 200 apartments on the plot, have a different version of the story.

“One T.K. Roy was the original owner of the entire plot. On December 22, 1969, the Indian Army occupied the land and retained it for almost 30 years,” said Pramod Sinhal, legal adviser to Begraj Group. “On February 10, 1998, the plot was returned to Roy’s legal heirs who in turn sold it to several buyers. We finally purchased a portion of it (five acres) from 15 owners in 2002.”

Had it been an encroachment, the block land and land reforms office would not have been issued a mutation certificate, company officials claimed.

“The SCPL has also obtained a land use compatibility certificate from the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority on August 27, 2004 and the plan was approved by SMC on December 18, 2004. The SMC issued the occupancy certificate on February 10 this year, which indicates that there was never any encroachment,” Sinhal said.

As for the kabarsthan tag on the plot, Sinhal alleged that land data was rarely updated by the government. “For example, some plots on Hill Cart Road may still have the ‘farmland’ tag.”

At present, around 60 families are staying at the complex while about 100 more have booked their flats, the realtors claimed.

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