Srinagar: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed an FIR against senior Congress leader and former Jammu and Kashmir minister Taj Mohiuddin for allegedly being in illegal possession of forest land in south Kashmir’s Shopian region.
The case against Mohiuddin was being probed by the J&K government’s anti-corruption bureau (ACB), formerly known as the State Vigilance Organisation, since 2016. However, the CBI took over the case this week, registering a fresh FIR Tuesday to investigate allegations that Mohiuddin was in illegal possession of 13.16 kanals of forest land (eight kanals equal one acre) in Sedow area of Shopian.
News agency PTI quoted CBI officials as saying that the agency had received a complaint from the ACB in the case.
The senior Congress leader, who has held multiple ministerial portfolios, was named in the CBI FIR along with four senior officials of the J&K government — Mohammad Ramzan Thakur, then deputy commissioner, Mohammad Yosuf Zargar, then additional deputy commissioner, Hafizullah Shah, then assistant commissioner (revenue) and Hassan Rather, then tehsildar of the area.
The FIR also lists unknown public servants and private persons.
The allegation against Mohiuddin is that he used the now-scrapped Roshni Act — meant to regularise encroachments on government land in exchange for payments at market rates — to illegally acquire land owned by the forest department, in collusion with officials of the revenue department. Regularisations under Roshni Act were not supposed to include forest land.
“The concerned public servants of revenue department have by commission of illegal acts processed, prepared and approved the illegal claim of Shri Taj Mohiuddin over the said land which belongs to the forest department… thereby paved the way for conferment of undue pecuniary advantage upon the said beneficiary in league with each other and with the beneficiary despite having the knowledge that the said land belonged to the forest department and in no way can be processed for conferment of ownership rights under the provision of J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) 2001,” said the ACB’s FIR.
The Roshni Act is officially known as the J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) 2001.
Speaking to ThePrint, Mohiuddin denied the allegations. “I have never applied for the Roshni scheme or paid money to the government under the scheme. This is nothing but a political witch hunt,” he said, adding that the ACB had not been able to prove any misdemeanour.
The FIR against Mohiuddin came a day after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed Para was arrested by the NIA in connection with the investigation against suspended J&K Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh, who is under the lens for militant links.
Para’s arrest was linked by his party to the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) polls in Kashmir, which he is contesting. Mohiuddin is also contesting the elections.
Speaking to ThePrint, Congress leaders who didn’t wish to be named sought to link the CBI FIR to his candidature in the DDC polls, saying the case was a “political witch hunt”.
Former J&K Chief Minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also criticised the FIR on Twitter.
Kashmiri leaders are being harassed by GOI’s pet agencies like CBI,NIA & ED. They are being hounded & punished for participating in DDC polls. BJPs designs of foisting puppets & proxies has been derailed much to their chagrin. https://t.co/2eiZYaXhxY
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) November 26, 2020
Mohiuddin was among the Kashmiri politicians who signed last year’s Gupkar Declaration a day ahead of the scrapping of Article 370.
The declaration was touted by the participating parties as a bid to protect the special status of J&K by standing united. It said any move to tinker with the erstwhile state’s special status would be “considered as aggression against the people of J&K”.
The declaration became an official political alliance this year, but the Congress claims the party has not officially joined it.