Top BJP leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, including newly elected Speaker Nirmal Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta, purchased, via a company, land right next to the Army’s ammunition depot in Nagrota.
A report in the Indian Express informs that on a 2,000-sq-m plot that is part of an estimated 12 acres bought in 2014, Nirmal Singh has begun constructing a house that has prompted a strong protest letter from the Corps Commander of the Army’s 16 Corps, Lt General Saranjeet Singh.
The letter, dated March 19, 2018, addressed directly to Nirmal Singh — he was Deputy CM then — Lt Gen Singh said that the house Nirmal Singh has constructed is illegal and “has implications on the security of a major ammunition storage facility as well as the safety of all personnel living in close vicinity of the ammunition depot”.
Lt Gen Singh wrote: “May I request you to reconsider construction of residential accommodation in close proximity of the ammunition depot being a potential safety hazard.”
An Army officer at Nagrota told The Indian Express that Lt General Saranjeet Singh was constrained to write directly to Nirmal Singh because “the local administration was not responding to the Army’s repeated requests to stop construction work” which “is a serous security and safety breach”. But when contacted, Nirmal Singh told The Indian Express that opposition to his construction is “politically motivated”. “I have no legal binding that I cannot do the construction,” he said. “What the Army is claiming, it is their view and not binding on me.’’
Singh however has called the Army’s objections as ‘politically motivated’.
He told The Indian Express that the ammunition depot has been in Nagrota since the 1970s.
“A village called Ban is adjacent to it. During militancy, the Army built a wall around it. They are saying that you can’t construct anything 1000 m from the outer wall of the depot. My house is 530 m. The moment I started construction, there was opposition. It is politically motivated,’’ he said. “They (army) don’t let people construct even a toilet. People are harassed. You should speak to people there. Because it is my house, it is politically motivated. They started objecting. Why don’t they get a stay, they can’t do it”.
“This is my property. I have a right to use this property the way I want to use it. It is my fundamental right and you (Army) can’t encroach. They are giving reference of Raksha Mantri, I am telling them you should have acquired it. I have got the plan of the house passed and they are objecting, ” the report quoted Singh as saying.
He said that local residents have made representations to him that the Army is harassing them and isn’t allowing them to use their land. “I brought this to the notice of the Raksha Mantri,’’ he said. “Revenue authorities are asking (questions to Army), people are crying. That isn’t being heard (by the Army) because this is politically motivated”.