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Now we know, Amitabh is not a farmer

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OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Lucknow Published 01.06.07, 12:00 AM

Lucknow, June 1: A Faizabad court today ruled that Amitabh Bachchan was anything but a farmer — a secret most of India would have guessed but one that has landed the superstar in trouble over two messy land deals.

The actor had got himself certified a farmer — by forgery, according to the court — in Uttar Pradesh so that he could hold on to a 24-acre plot he had bought near Lonavla in Pune in the mid-1990s.

Amitabh had begun building a farmhouse there, but the structure and the land deal were in danger because Maharashtra laws allow only a farmer to buy agricultural land.

Last year, however, the actor showed the Pune district authorities a certificate from the then Barabanki district magistrate, Ramashankar Sahu, saying Amitabh was a farmer because he owned farmland in the district.

Today, the Faizabad additional commissioner (administration), who has judicial powers in land disputes, ruled that the 1993 Barabanki land transfer in Amitabh’s name was illegal.

Vidya Sagar Prasad also said the DM’s certificate had been obtained with forged land revenue documents. “Therefore, his endeavour to prove his credentials as a farmer does not hold ground.”

The superstar hasn’t much credentials to speak of as a farmer even on screen: only once in his four-decade-old career has he played a farmer —in Veer-Zaara.

The blow comes at a time the Mayavati government is believed to be looking for ways to act against friends of the previous chief minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is close to Amitabh.

Senior officials said the state might prosecute the actor for furnishing false documents, but would wait till the case played out in the courts. Amitabh’s counsel M.B. Singh has spoken of appealing in Allahabad High Court.

The appeal may be merged with another petition lying in the high court, filed by villagers against the land transfer.

The petitioners had claimed that the plot in Daulatpur village was Gram Samaj land, reserved under panchayat laws for poor and landless peasants. A previous Barabanki DM, Ashis Goel, had accepted this and dismissed the actor’s claim to the land, but was quickly transferred by the Mulayam government.

His replacement, Sahu, ordered status quo on the deal while Amitabh challenged Goel’s order in the Faizabad court, which gave its verdict today. Faizabad commissioner R.C. Srivastava said: “The land has been restored to the Gram Samaj. The allotment is held to be fraudulent.”

Maharashtra officials said the state would move to reclaim the Pune plot. The actor’s sole purpose in trying to acquire the Barabanki land seemed to be to safeguard his Pune land and bungalow.

Jarnail Singh, a farmer in Daulatpur, claims to have been cultivating the plot since the 1970s. He said the Bachchans had never visited the place.

Amitabh was not available for comment. A source close to him said: “These are all political games.”

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