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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Illegal sale, purchase of religious properties continue unabated in Haridwar

The ancient Kushavrat Ghat.
Builders, priests, officials allegedly involved in shady deals
Haridwar, April 8
The land selling issue of ancient Kushavrat ghat and the Ahilya Bai Devi Holkar dharamshala in Haridwar has now opened the Pandora's Box. More such hidden property deals that are affecting the ancient mythological aspect of the pilgrim city may surface.
Buying and selling of religious properties have become almost a routine affair with even government employees coming onto the radar, who give official look to the fake change of name of religious properties, making huge share of profits from such deals.
Though selling of religious properties such as dharmashalas and those of public usage were prohibited by the previous BJP led state government, yet selling of Kushavrat ghat which holds immense religious significance to commercial buyers has highlighted the need of having special monitoring of such religious properties. Though Ahillya Bai Devi Holkar Trust, which looks after the dharamshala and other properties, is now making an excuse that they don’t have any role in selling of the dharamshala or ghat, another aspect came to light that on August 2, 2009, when trust member Raghavendra Shikola had given on lease of amount of Rs 2000 annually Kushawrat ghat and adjacent small rooms to Arvind Kumar, who was trying to buy the whole Kushavrat ghat and Ahilya Bai Dharamshala.
Now Arvind is saying that only dharmashala’s selling deal was being done and not of Kushavrat ghat as is being made out by some organisations.He said that he along with the seller Raghavendra Shikola submitted all the deal and property-related papers to the District Magistrate.
Akhil Bharatiya Holkar Maha Sangh, in view of the secret deal of selling Kushavrat ghat and adjacent Ahilya Bai Hokar Devi Dharamshala, which is related to the royal Holkar Indore dynasty, has demanded seizing of the whole property and has also written to several parliamentarians related with the community as well of Uttarakhand to raise this issue in Parliament, as it has deeply hurt the religious sentiments of the people.
Even the rooms of dharmshalas were broken to give them a facelift of shops in the 80s, though later the then Joint Magistrate Ghansyam Pant had in his verdict termed the construction as illegal, citing the narrow lanes of the dharamshala. When Haridwar Development Authority officials were contacted, they couldn’t give satisfactory reasons as to how the shops were made, particulary in the western and northern parts of the dharamshala premises, where rates run now in crores.
Talking to TNS, HDA vice chairperson said that this aspect is also being looked into. He pointed that during Maha Kumbh 2010 he had given orders to stop the digging work being taken in and around the Kushavrat ghat owing to religious significance of this ghat.
Demand of acquisition of all dharamshalas is also now being made from state government by various organisations. Ramesh Chandra Sharma, secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Dharamshala Prabandhak Sabha, has written a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna in this regard, demanding that all the deals of dharmashalas made out since creation of the state should be cancelled with immediate effect as mass scale corruption has taken place with a nexus between some so-called religious people, commercial builders and government officers.
District Magistrate D Senthyl Pendiyan informed that as the current selling deal has been made on basis of a supplementary deed which has only Madhya Pradesh government representatives, while in the original deed the Government of India was also taken as representative of the trust in 1962. The administration has written to both Central Government and the Government of Madhya Pradesh to provide full details, records and papers regarding this deed.
Meanwhile, normal ‘karm kand’ and ‘sanskar’ and other rituals are still going on at the Kushavrat ghat while in view of the ongoing tension, additional police personnel have been deployed at the ghat area.
“Property papers, old maps,documents are being assessed. Also, the total property of trust and benaami records are being inter checked by the investigating team,” said SDM Harbeer Singh of administrative team looking into this matter.

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