Pune: Nearly 46.4 acre of Waqf land on Katraj-Kondhwa Road is in dispute with 238 landowners battling as rightful owners of the land for the past 20 years.
The Central Waqf Council (CWC) have written a letter to the Principal Secretary of Minorities Development Department on 2 November to restore the rightful owners- Waqf Board on the disputed land which is now occupied by other owners.
Now an inquiry into the matter has been initiated and a report on the matter is awaited from the Pune regional Waqf officer.
The battle for the plot dates back to 1996 when the then members of the Alamgir Masjid Trust appealed the court to declare the land an inam (gift), which was apparently turned down by the court citing numerous unanswered questions pertaining to the land.
The trust was then directed to file a suit in the appropriate court for the land which the Trustee members omitted.
Salim Mulla, social Activists claims to have accessed the documents pertaining to the land records under the RTI Act which show the land had the first Kondhwa mosque which means the 238 owners have illegally encroached the mosque land and are now claiming their illegal rights.
He said that the first mosque was built on the 46.4 acres of land, which is now in dispute, but when he searched further into the litigation, it was revealed that back in 2006 the land was transferred to Waqf Board by the Charity Commissioner, which is now claimed by 238 illegal owners.
“Once I received all the documents under the RTI Act, it showed that the land belonged to the board from the start as it was a devasthan. However, the earlier trustees had sold the land to about 238 people and that since it was a nonsaleable land, this was clearly an illegal process,” he insisted.
The CWC decided to launch an inquiry into the matter after Mulla had asked for the response from various authorities regarding the illegal land dispute.
Mulla proposes the land should be restored to the Waqf Board so that a technical skills university for Minorities will be built on the land which is illegally occupied by numerous illegal owners.
But the battle of the disputed land seems not an easy one since the illegal occupants are claiming their rights stating their stay is legal since time immemorial and they have acquired the land by paying the price.
A landowner for the past two decades, Vedprakash Taneja, (80) a retired army colonel and a cardiologist claims he has been fighting for the land since he purchased it in 1990.
He says after selling his property in Haryana, he has here, built a farmhouse and now is fully determined to fight for his right on the land. He also said that the Trust has no authority to take away the land and is not an authentic board.
He said, “I gave up all my land in Haryana and used my savings to procure this land. I had all the land documents scanned from legal advisors before I invested my money. We paid the entire amount and it was a great relief to finally have land in the city where I could build my own farmhouse. I thought the battle was at an end a few years ago, but now I’m on my guard again. I challenge anyone to prove how the land belongs to the Waqf Board. I guarantee that I can prove them wrong.”
Now Taneja has also been directed to submit his documents pertaining to the land after the CWC launched an inquiry.
Another owner Mr. Robin Bhatnagar, also in his 80s shares a similar story to acquiring the land in 90’s.
He said, “In the numerous hearings that have occurred on this issue since 1996, all the courts have dismissed appeals from the trustees and the Waqf Board, and asked them to appeal to the appropriate court. However, 20 years later, they have still not done this. I am willing to give up my property if it is proved that it belongs to the board as long as I get my money back for the area that I own, according to the current market rate.”
When Pune Mirror contacted Waqf Board CEO Sandesh Tadvi, he replied, “An inquiry has been initiated and we are awaiting a report from the Pune regional officer, Atiq Khan, on the matter. We will be able to say more only after we get the report.”