Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday denied the administration’s allegations that his residence was built on illegally occupied land, NDTV reported. The administration, in its second list of beneficiaries of the Roshni Act published on Tuesday, also named Abdullah’s sister Suraiya Matto and son Omar Abdullah as “encroachers” of the state land, according to The Indian Express.
“I have purchased every inch of land where my house was built in 1998,” Farooq Abdullah told NDTV. “Falsehood is being unleashed to defame me.”
National Conference chief Omar Abdullah also denied the charges. “Farooq Abdullah has not availed of the Roshni Scheme for either his residence in Srinagar or in Jammu and anyone who says otherwise is lying,” he said. “The fact that they are using sources to plant this story shows that it has no legs to stand on.”
Reacting to the development, Bhartiya Janata Party leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress and the National Conference leaders of encroaching large tracts of government and forest land.
He also demanded a thorough investigation into the Roshni Act scam. “There was a conscious loot by powerful people of forest land and getting benefits under the Roshni Act, which has been declared unconstitutional by the High Court,” Prasad told reporters in New Delhi.
Calling it the “lowest ebb in a democratic polity”, Prasad said that the land should be taken back from the beneficiaries.
The new list of “encroachers” also includes businessman Mushtaq Chaya and Ashfaq Mir, who has been identified as the son of Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge Justice (retired) Ali Mohammed Mir. In the first list, former Peoples Democratic Party leader Haseeb Drabu, Congress’ KK Amla, National Conference leader Syed Akhoon, and former Jammu and Kashmir Bank Chairman MY Khan were named.
In 2001, Farooq Abdullah’s government enacted the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants Act. The law was to grant the ownership of state land to its occupants, for a fee determined by the government. Its stated aim was to generate funds for power projects, earning it the moniker, the Roshni Act.
The Act was repealed in 2018 after Governor Satya Pal Malik concluded that it had “not served” its purpose and called it a “Rs 25,000 crore land scam”. This move came after advocate Ankur Sharma, who had defended the accused in the Kathua rape case of January 2018, sought its repeal to “defeat the jihadi war in the form of demographic invasion of Jammu”.
In October, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation-led inquiry in the alleged involvement of public servants and others in grabbing government land. The court declared Roshni Act as “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable”.