Face-off Between Army, JK Govt Over Assets Of Maharaja’s Forces

Face-off Between Army, JK Govt Over Assets Of Maharaja’s Forces

27 May 2013
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: The State Government on Monday ordered examination of the agreement dating back to 1956 between the State and the President of India over ownership of assets of Maharaja Hari Singh’s forces presently under the possession of Army. The development follows “non-release of rent by Army” for land measuring 224 kanals in its possession in Chatha village of Jammu for the past 25 years. An official said the Army was claiming ownership of the “disputed” land citing the agreement reached in 1956 while the State Government has been contesting the Army’s claim over the said land. The official said before 1947 the State had its own Ministry of Defense during Maharaja’s time which was in possession of number of properties including land. After State Defense became domain of New Delhi post J&K’s accession, the official said the Union Defense Ministry staked claim on all the assets which were under the possession of the ex-state forces of Maharaja. Another official said subsequently a list of these properties was framed and under the 1956 agreement the Defense Ministry claimed their ownership over these assets. However, he said at many places it was found that civilian and state property was included in the assets taken over by the Army. “It led to dispute over ownership of such assets,” the official said. He said Maharaja’s forces would camp during summer for military exercise at many locations but they never owned the land. “However, such assets also figured in the list. By no stretch of imagination the land belonged to them,” he said. “It should have never happened.” The official said the State Government was also to be blamed for the “misfortune”. Nobody, he said, bothered to verify and counter-check the facts as well as the assets prior to the agreement. He said the Government’s decision to examine the 1956 agreement came after the Army took up the Chatha land matter with the Government of India which in turn sought information from the state’s Raj Bhawan. The Raj Bhawan in turn sought details from the State Home Department over the matter, said the official. Earlier the issue was taken up by the State Government with concerned quarters on number of occasions in the past but it did not yield any result. Today the General Administration Department (GAD) accorded sanction to constitution of a high level committee to examine the 1956 records. The 5-member committee to be headed by the Chief Secretary has been asked to submit its report within 15 days. Principal Secretary Home Department, Suresh Kumar said there was an “issue” between the State Government and the Army over the Chatha land. “The army is also claiming ownership of the land,” he said. “We want to reconcile the records to bring facts to the fore.”