J&K LG Manoj Sinha constitutes SIT to probe the issue
Jammu and Kashmir administration under Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has appointed Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Vijay Kumar Bidhuri as head of the SIT to probe the illegal lease and sale of temple properties within the valley.
Subsequently, the Divisional Commissioner has issued a letter to all Deputy Commissioners of the valley, a copy of which is with The New Indian, encouraging them to ascertain such incidents in their respective districts and take appropriate necessary and appropriate action.
He has further ordered the Deputy Commissioners to furnish an updated inventory of religious minority properties (temples, gurudwaras, others) to his office.
The order for the SIT probe was issued after Satish Mahaldar, Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Peace Forum, moved a complaint to the Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Ministry of Home Affairs to look into the illegal lease and sale of temple properties across the valley.
Mahaldar had earlier filed an RTI in 2021 with the Registrars of Society, seeking details of the registered trusts and bodies of temples. According to the RTI reply, it was revealed that there was no record of any bodies or trusts for temples registered with the Registrar of Societies.
While speaking to The New Indian, Satish stated that “after the displacement of Kashmiri pandits in the 1990s, the temple lands have been illegally leased and sold in the valley”. He stated that since there were no registered bodies or trusts to look after the temple properties, the authorisation of the lease or sale of temple properties was carried out illegally and a probe has been ordered considering the facts presented through the RTI.
He further stated that the land mafia, hand in glove with some revenue officials, were involved in these illegal transfers of land and properties of temples. “Since no trusts or bodies were registered with the registrar of societies, the lease or sale of the temple properties and lands have been carried out illegally by the mafia,” he further added.
Citing an example of the illegal dealings, Satish said that the property belonging to the Durga Nag temple in Dalgate, Srinagar, has been leased out to around 240 people illegally after the displacement of Kashmiri pandits.
Similarly, the temple land in Barbarshah, Srinagar, has been illegally leased out to private entities that have constructed multi-story buildings for commercial purposes on the temple land.
In December last year, Jammu and Kashmir’s high court passed orders wherein the Jammu and Kashmir government was “free” to evolve any policy for the management of temples in J&K.