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Maharashtra: Tribal woman alleges land grab worth crores

Updated on: 01 June,2023 07:49 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon |

Woman from Uran says her ancestral agricultural land has been usurped through forgery and unauthorised conversion to non-agricultural use by officials and landsharks

Maharashtra: Tribal woman alleges land grab worth crores

The alleged container yard operating on the disputed land. Pics/Rajendra Madhavi

A tribal woman from Uran in Raigad has lodged a police complaint against local revenue officials and several others for allegedly seizing her ancestral protected agricultural land, measuring approximately 5 acre, in Dighode village, Uran. The woman claims that the accused forged revenue documents and sold the property without her consent, which is estimated to be worth crores of rupees.

According to local activists, the disputed property is located near the Mumbai MTHL (Nava Sheva-Sewree) project. It is alleged that the land was converted from agricultural to non-agricultural land with the involvement of corrupt revenue officials of Uran. The complainant, Mukta Katkari, 60, a resident of Adivasi Wadi, Punade, Uran, states that her grandfather and father used to cultivate the said land, and after their passing, the Katkari legal heirs continued farming. However, they were forcibly asked to vacate the plot, and currently, a container yard operates on the disputed land.

The tribal woman Mukta Katkari along with her husband, Anantha
The tribal woman Mukta Katkari along with her husband, Anantha

After senior police officials intervened, the Uran police registered a case against nine accused individuals, including a former lady revenue official. Some of the accused have sought anticipatory bail before the Panvel Sessions court, with the matter scheduled for June 6.

RTI filed by the social worker

The land fraud was exposed after an RTI was filed by Professor Rajendra Madhavi, a social worker and Vice President of Uran Samajik Sanstha. He has been working closely on tribal rights in the area and discovered numerous cases of tribals being deprived of basic government facilities. After collecting relevant documents related to Mukta Katkari’s property, it was revealed that the land records were forged, and the land was converted without her consent. 

“The victim, Mukta, is the granddaughter of the actual owner of the property, her late grandfather Gopal Katkari, who passed away in 1980. All three of his sons have also passed away over time, but the original legal heirs of the Katkari family are still alive. Mukta is fighting the cause on behalf of the family,” stated Madhavi.

Advocate speaks

Advocate Siddharth Ingle accuses the police of initially delaying the complaint and alleges their complicity with the accused. After intervention and a meeting with senior officials, the FIR was registered. No arrests have been made as the accused have filed an anticipatory bail plea.

According to Advocate Ingle, the case involves the illegal grabbing of poor and illiterate tribal landowners’ ancestral agricultural land. The landsharks colluded with corrupt revenue officials to manipulate and forge land records, resulting in the unauthorised conversion of protected tribal land into non-agricultural land. The estimated value of the land is in crores of rupees. The land revenue code prohibits the transfer or sale of tribal land to non-tribals without permission from the Collector, who is responsible for protecting such lands.

Ingle further added, “The conversion of tribal agricultural land into non-agricultural land, as occurred in this case, is a violation of the land revenue code. We have brought this matter to the notice of the collector, who has assured us that an inquiry will be conducted.”

The police complaint

In Mukta’s police complaint; she states that she belongs to the Katkari tribe and that her late grandfather Gopal Katkari owned the land in question. After his demise, the names of the legal heirs should have been recorded in the revenue records. However, the mutation entry in the land record allegedly shows four names—Tulsiram Babu Gharat, Lahu Babu Gharat, Ankush Babu Gharat, and Bharat Babu Gharat—as the legal heirs of Gopal Katkari. The former land record official is accused of manipulating the surname on the land records, changing it from ‘Katkari’ to ‘Kaskari.’

On January 3, 1996, the Gharat brothers allegedly sold the said property to a person named Kailash Surve. Subsequently, Surve took possession of the land and constructed a compound wall around it. With the assistance of a former Tahsildar from Uran, the land was converted from agricultural to non-agricultural without proper verification of the documents. The mutation entry in the revenue records was made on February 1, 2019. Surve currently operates a private container yard on the disputed land. Although the Uran police have filed a case against nine individuals, including the lady revenue official, no arrests have been made so far. Attempts made to contact Surve or Gharat’s did not yield any result.

Revenue minister’s decision is due

Complainant filed application, exposing forged land records. New  revenue officials ordered to return the land. Surve challenged this order before Revenue Minister of Maharashtra, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil. Minister is yet to make any decision. 

Police speak

Dhanaji Kshirsagar, Divisional Assistant Commissioner of Police (Port), confirmed that the case is under investigation, and he is personally investigating the case. He acknowledged that it is an old case and requested the relevant records. When asked about any arrests made in the case,  ACP responded negatively.

Area of land (in acres) allegedly grabbed

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