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My tryst with the Land Mafia

I have run a sordid, humiliating, painful, and frustrating gauntlet fighting an uphill battle with the ‘Land Mafia’, which, sadly enough, the powers-that-be want to wish away and take an ostrich-like stance. Perhaps, they also are an integral part of it! I know that my squalid experience is only the tip of the giant iceberg, which threatens to sink the very economy of the country. The ‘punishment’ meted out to me,  particularly, by the police, is on account of my stubbornly refusing to kowtow to these goons, who have snatched my land in connivance with the purported enforcers of the law and corrupt officials from the Revenue Department.

My grievances concern my property in Pune, which is backed with documentary evidence and I take full responsibility for my submissions.  I own Agricultural land at Wagholi being Gat No. 1283/2269. Admeasuring around 300,000 sq. ft., since 1990-1992. My land was part of a private layout, which I had purchased for two years, from the plot holders. I was in undisputed and uninterrupted use, possession, and occupation since 1992. I had even had a bore–well dug in June 2006. I also had an electricity connection and had an underground 4-inch pipeline laid to supply water to the plantations, as well as constructed two rooms on my premises. I had House No. 1057 allotted from the  Wagholi Gram-panchayat and was cultivating corn, ladyfingers, cucumber, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, papaya, white radish, coconut, guava, custard apples, mango pomegranate, etc., as well as  Goat rearing.

In addition, I had four large gates; seven name boards, made of concrete blocks and metal. I had fenced my property, using 147 cement poles and barbed wire, and chicken mesh. In addition. I had electricity poles with street lights fixed at four corners of the property as well as few poles running across the land.

I ran into my first road-bock in 2006, when Goel Ganga Builders put up a large hoarding, measuring 20 ft. x 15 ft., in the corner of my property, by blatantly criminally trespassing into it and without my permission but instead of complying with my request for them to remove the hoarding from my land, their Estate Manager, Sadanand, filed a Complaint at Loni- Kand Police Chowki, falsely alleging that I was cutting down trees which were planted on the roadside.

I was summoned to the by Head Constable, Sanjay Natu, to whom I  gave a written statement, as well as proved to the police that I had not chopped down any trees. However, I contended that I was within my rights to demand that the intruders remove the Hoarding from my premises.

On, 20 February 2007, while I was in Panchgani, a hill station near Pune, holidaying with my family, I received a call from Jeetu Lalwani of ‘Lalwani Builders’, who informed me that they had placed a Public Notice inviting objections, if any, for sale/purchase of my land. I informed him that I was the legal owner and I   immediately instructed my Advocate Girish Shinde, to object to the sale/purchase of my land, without even my knowledge. On 22 February 2007, Subhash Nanekar, of Uttam Nagar called me and threatened me with dire consequences, if I raised objections to the Public Notice inserted by Adv. Lalwani.

On 25 February 2007, I was again threatened by Subhash Nanekar on behalf of Lalwani Builders. I made a written Complaint at Ramwadi Police Chowki, under Yerawada Police Station.  On 26 February 2007, a Name Board was stolen from my property and Subhash Nanekar visited my property. He abused, threatened, and chased away my workers in my absence. I made a written Complaint at Lonikand Police Chowki.  In the evening I received a call from A P I Prabhakar Shinde, wanting to meet me, which we did to meet at Sri Krishna restaurant, at Viman Nagar, Pune. A P I Prabhakar Shinde, instead of looking into my Complaint, chose to threaten me with arrest since his classmate, Shivaji Kshirsagar, was a Partner with Lalwani Builders who were interested in acquiring my property. I refused to entertain his illegal, unfounded, dictatorial demand and pointed out to him that his action was outside his duties, illegal, and to benefit Lalwani builders by misusing his position.

Immediately, I wrote a complaint to Supt. of Police, Pune Rural Vishwas Nangre Patil, and also met him. But he said this was a civil case and he could do nothing about it. On 5 March 2007, A P I Prabhakar Shinde visited my land in his car, along with a constable. He pointed his service revolver at me and asked me to accompany him to Lonikand Police Chowki immediately which I did.

At the Police Chowki, I was made to wait. A P I Prabhakar Shinde made a few calls and, then, Jeetu Lalwani, Jeevan Lalwani, Shivaji Kshirsagar, and Subhash Nanekar arrived in two different cars.  A P I Prabhakar Shinde then ordered me to negotiate with them regarding my land. I refused and pointed out to him that he was indulging in illegal activity. After about three hours of unrelenting harassment, threats A P I Prabhakar Shinde choose to issue a Notice to me on the spot u/s 149 Cr.PC.  Which I accepted and, thereafter, replied to.

However, 4 April 2007, even before insertion of Public Notice Adv. Nitin Jadhav went ahead and registered a Sale Deed at Sub Registrar- Haveli No. 8. Significantly,   the Public Notice was issued after registration of the Document at Serial No 2881/2007.  the Purchasers being Ushadevi Ravindra Agarwal, Smt Ridhhi Agarwal, Shri Sachin Kumar Agarwal, and Yogesh Kumar Agarwal., who were not agriculturists in Maharashtra. Even more, they were residents of Delhi! They do not have the original documents, which are still with me.

I complained regarding discrepancies in the Document No 2881/2007 to the Collector of Pune, who has, in turn, ordered an investigation by Jt. District Registrar which, poignantly, are still pending as is hanging in limbo, also my R T I application in this regard at State Information Commissioner- Pune made on dated 25 February 2011.

On 8 September 2007,   around 11 am, I received a call from Constable Chitale stating that one Hanuman Jadhav had filed a complaint against me. I expressed my inability to comply as I was in Mumbai at that time and also since I did not know any such person. On 29 October 2007, at app. 12.30 hrs, I received a call from my neighbour, Nitin Dhole Patil, that about a hundred persons, along with armed Police, had come to my land with a J C B machine and were in the process of demolishing my gates, fencing, poles, watch-man cabin, water tank, electrical poles, name boards, standing crop and fruit trees et al. I immediately rushed to my land and took a video recording of this blatant land grab, in connivance with the police. Activity going on at my premises. There were three cars:

  1. a) Honda City Golden colour MH 12– 1009
  2. b) Toyota Qualis White MH 12 BP 4289 (85)
  3. c) Maruti Zen White No. (5- -5).
  4. d) Two Blue colour 407 model trucks.
  5. e) One Police jeep No. 2377 colour grey.
  6. f) About ten motorcycles, of different makes.
  7. g) One brand new yellow coloured J C B with no number plates.

My Property worth more than Rs.  2 lakhs was stolen at that time. I spoke to PS I. V G Bhonsale informed me that he had a Court order to take possession of my land. But when I demanded to see the Court order, he ordered three armed constables to take me to Loni Kalbhor Police Station where I

met Sr. Insp. Ravindra Rasal who also refused to show me any orders and directed me to apply under R T I Act 2005 for a copy of the Court Order, I was illegally detained made to wait, during which time I contacted my advocate, Rizwan Merchant, in Mumbai and instructed him to write to the Director-General of Police (Maharashtra) and inform him about this illegal activity being carried out by Pune Rural Police.

On 31 October 2007, I filed case No 040 3967/2011 at J M F C No VII Pune u/s 395, 341, 427, 447, 147, 148 I P C against Subhash Sitaram Goel, Usha Devi, Shri Sachin Kumar, Ridhi Agarwal, Yogesh Kumar, Ravindra Rasal, Bhonsale, and Ashok Morale.

When on 3 December 2007, an Adv. Mishra, on the pretext of reading the case filed, tried to tear the documents attached the Court clerk stopped him. This outrage was brought to the notice of the J M F C adjudicating over the Court, who on my application, directed investigation u/s 156 (3) Cr.PC, which was Communicated to Supt Police – Pune Rural Police along with citations of the Supreme Court pertaining to the procedure to be followed in orders u/s 156(3) Cr. Pc.

On 26 December 2007, a station diary entry was made under serial no M 3 / 2007, but a copy of the FIR was not given to me, as per procedure, despite my several requests to the authorities concerned.

In October 2008, I, therefore, filed Writ Petition No 2212/2008 in the Bombay High Court asking for directions to register the F I R and complete the investigations. The Government Pleader told the Bench that the F I R had already been lodged and Police had also filed ‘B” Summary Report (false case) on 31 December 2008!  The Bombay High Court disposed of the matter with orders that I should proceed to Trial Court with a “Protest Petition”, which should be disposed of in fifteen days. After hearing detailed arguments, the Court set aside the ‘B ’Summary report.

I then filed as an Intervener Civil Application No. 20/2009 in PIL No 59/2008 in the Bombay High Court, which filed by Adv. Dinesh Gonjare against the State of Maharashtra and others regarding the land mafia rampaging in the Maval Taluka, which was once Chhatrapati Shivaji’s rallying grounds. On 9 July 2009, the High Court ordered an investigation into the Letter dated 12 September 2007, and on 10 August 2009, the SPI I G P Kolhapur Range, Ashok Ganeshrao Dhivre, filed an Affidavit in the Bombay High Court where he admitted that the Pune Rural Police had referred to a non-existent alleged Court order and taken forceful possession of my land. He also stated that D G police Maharashtra was investigating the role of Dy. Superintendent, H.L. Ghadge, and Addl Supt Shri Ashok Morale. Dalvi, the clerk in Pune Rural Police Headquarters, was being investigated by the Supt. Police, Pune Rural.

On 5 November 2009, the Bombay High Court issued a SHOW CAUSE notice to the State of Maharashtra.

On 1 April 2010, Prem Kishen Jain, Principal Secretary (Home) – State of Maharashtra filed his Affidavit in the Bombay High Court, admitting to the mistake committed by the Police Officers. He also informed the Bombay High Court, that D G Police Maharashtra was conducting     an Inquiry into the role of the Police Officers concerned. The Bombay High Court then disposed of the P I L no. 59/2008 and my C A No. 20 /2009, with orders that the  D G Police Maharashtra. Must appoint officers, not below the rank of I G police to investigate into land grabs complaints.

I applied R T I Act 2005, seeking information about the D G Police inquiry into the role of Police officers.  I received some information that said that Ashok Morale and H.L. Ghadge were found guilty and given minor punishments.

On 29 March 2010, when  I visited my land I found that rocks had been dumped, blocking the natural drainage  (nullah), which was being done to turn fertile Agricultural land into Non-Agricultural.  I immediately complained to the Divisional Commissioner, Collector of Pune, and the Supt. of Police. I was called to Lonikand Police station and my statement was recorded on 9 July 2010.

On 22 December 2011, in Writ Petition No. 77/2011 which I had filed, the Bombay High Court ordered the SPI, I G Police Kolhapur Rangeto be appointed as the Investigation Officer since the Director General Police had not appointed an officer to investigate into my complaints for more than a year.

Not order it to be provided.

At the end of my tether, in November 2019 I wrote to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, listing out my predicament and seeking his shelter in getting an FIR registered. I received a communication from the Registrar, Public Grievance Cell of the Bombay High Court in December 2019, informing me that my Petition had been forwarded to the Director-General Police, Maharashtra, and the Supt. of Police, Pune Rural to initiate expeditious action.

These are only a few details of my travails in search of justice, which has eluded me since 2007. Truly it had been noted, again and yet again that Justice delayed is justice denied. But from practical experience, I can confirm that the wheels of our Justice System are clogged with the rust of apathy and sloth. The new adage I find, to my disappointment and utter frustration, is, while actions speak louder than words, Money speaks loudest of all! I am now pinning hopes on the incumbent Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramanan, who is said to be an activist Judge, suo motu taking up cudgels on my behalf and stemming this rot of corruption that has eaten into our very beings. As far as I am concerned, from even a casual glance of my saga, it must be appreciated that to put it mildly, there have been many a slip between the cup and the lip!

 

By: Alim Abubakar Chagla

Alim Chagla is an agriculturist and social worker based in Pune. He moved to Pune in 1995 and has since been helping the oppressed in their battle against the Pune land mafia. He has been fighting a land grab case for the last 14 years. One might view his various efforts on his Youtube channel

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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