A group of farmers in Khargone district, Madhya Pradesh, have been allegedly cheated by an organisation with an ‘Urdu’ name into selling 200 acres of land, out of fear that Muslims would be settling down there.
The story goes back to 2007 when farmers were approached by an organisation, named “Tanzeem-e-Zarkhez”. The organisation was formed in 2002 by a group of Hindus who hired a Muslim man named Zakir Sheikh as its manager.
According to a report by NDTV, of the 200 acres of land, 150 were bought, from 11 individuals or organisations. The remaining land belonged to small farmers who were allegedly tricked by men, linked to a Hindutva organisation in MP, into selling them.
One of the sellers Nandkishore Kushwala claims he sold his five-acre land for Rs 40,000.
“I sold my land in 2004 when a man named Zakir came to us and said he has bought all the land around ours. He told us there will be a slaughterhouse here soon. ‘Sell your land to Muslims as the community is settling here anyway,’ we were told,” alleges Kushwala.
Another named Sanjay Singhvi said, “My relatives felt that a Haj Committee would be formed, Muslims would settle here. So they panicked and sold the land. In the end, I sold mine as well.”
It was only after they heard that a housing colony is coming instead of the stories that were told they realised they had been cheated in the name of Islamophobia.
When NDTV spoke to Zakir Sheikh he denied having tricked anyone. “I thought the purpose of the organisation was to work towards a social cause. But I never forced or misled anyone to sell their land,” he said.
Tanzeem-e-Zarkhez was rechristened as ‘Professor PC Mahajan Foundation’ in 2007 when all the deals were finalised. It is currently headed by Ranjeet Singh Dandir, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Dandir, who has a criminal history, spoke to NDTV and said his name is being dragged as he is ‘well-known’. “I have been jailed seven times; there are murder charges on me. Only because I chose to work for the Hindu society,” he alleges.
However, the national party has distanced itself from the controversy. State BJP secretary Rajnish Agarwal denied any kind of involvement. “Our party has nothing to do with this. This issue is between the seller and the buyer and they have their own economic interest,” NDTV quoted him.
Director of the Professor PC Mahajan Foundation, Ravi Mahajan, defended that every procedure was followed and acted according to the laws of the land.
On being asked why the name changed from a Muslim to a Hindu, Mahajan said, “The meaning of ‘Tanzeem-e-Zarkhez’ is to make wasteland fertile. Since we felt people may not understand the meaning, we changed the name.”
The police and district administration have chosen to remain silent on the matter.