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Gujarat: Hindu partner removed after property jointly purchased by Hindu-Muslim partners, how Disturbed Areas Act was circumvented

While every Indian citizen has the right to reside in any part of India and the constitution ensures no discrimination is carried out, constitution also provides for safety and security of every Indian.

A shocking incident has come to light from Surat, Gujarat where the Disturbed Areas Act was circumvented and permission to construct building was obtained through seemingly deceitful means. In Surat’s Adajan area, a permission to construct a building was obtained by one Raihan Heights project, next to a temple by ‘temporarily’ bringing up a Hindu partner in a Muslim owned enterprise in what appears to be a bid to hoodwink the law.

Raihan Heights in Adajan Surat: How Hindu partner was brought in ‘temporarily’ only for transfer of property

Elaborating on the details of the case, Surat-based activist Asit Gandhi said, “On 14th March, 2020 Rander area in Surat was brought under the Disturbed Areas Act. In this particular case, where the sale of land took place, there are three huge residential societies where residents are predominantly Hindus and there is a temple nearby. On 16th March, 2020, just four days after the area was notified under the Disturbed Areas Act, ‘Evergreen Corporation’, a partnership firm with Maqsood Godil (50%) and Mohammad Irfan Chamadiya (50%), brought in new partners, Shabnam Junaid Motiwala (10%), Ahmed Junaid Motiwala (10%) and Prakash Dholariya (10%) and diluted their own share to 35% each.”

Gandhi informed that the firm then applied to purchase land from Dhansukh Bejanwala, Mahesh Bejanwala, Arvind Bejanwala and Hasmukh Bejanwala. In the said application, they said that the buyers were Prakash Dholariya ‘and others’, thereby hiding the religious identity of the other partners, informed Gandhi. On 24th March, 2020 nationwide lockdown was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, so all procedures were put on hold. Owing to this, the due process that needs to be done in such cases which fall under the Disturbed Areas Act, were not carried out.

Raihan Heights, Adajan, Surat

Gandhi informs that the Disturbed Areas Act is wrongly interpreted that it applicable where at least one party between buyer and seller are either Hindus or Muslims. The thing is, any such transactions in such areas would require to follow due process. This is to preserve the religious and community value and identity of the areas which are susceptible to demographic change. A Collector would carry out formal inquiry after any such application is made and police and district magistrate have to carry out the inquiry. He said that in such cases, the authorities have to physically go to the property and take information that is publicly available and even take written approval from people affected. This includes those who live nearby that particular property as well. Only once the procedure is followed and Collector is satisfied will he approve the transfer of property.

In this case, when the coronavirus pandemic related lockdown ended and the unlock was being phased in, on 20th June, 2020, the Deputy Collector approved the sale of immovable property without any formal inquiry. Further, what is interesting is that even before the transfer of property was done on 20th June, on 11th June, 2020, the builders had already applied for construction permission on the said land.

Gandhi further said that Surat Municipal Corporation, without approval from the Collector approved the construction activity to take place on the property. One of the conditions of transfer of such property is that if in future it comes to light that facts were hidden, the deal is liable to be cancelled. If false information is provided, it becomes a case for cancellation of deal.

Interestingly, after the permission for construction was cleared, Prakash Dholariya was removed as partner from the firm. On 29th August, 2020, as per a notarised agreement, the partnership firm ‘Evergreen Corporation’ removed Dholariya from the firm. Now, Maqsood Godil (35%), Mohammad Irfan Chamadiya (35%), Shabnam Motiwala (15%) and Ahmed Junaid Motiwala (15%) are the partners.

Raihan Heights, in what appears like a deceitful transaction, started constructing 5 high rise buildings with 260 flats. After the facts came to light, the Deputy Collector City Prant Surat has now cancelled the original transaction of sale of land between Evergreen Corporation and the Bejanwala family.

Surat Deputy Collector cancelling the original land deal

With this order, all the construction activity now stands halted. The rule states that once the cancellation of transfer of property order comes in, the seller has to return the amount received as payment within 3 months and the buyer has to return the property. If not, then the Collector gives judicial order of 5 years of rigorous imprisonment and fine of 10% of Jantri value.

Raihan Heights not an isolated incident

What is unfortunate is that this is not an isolated incident. Asit Gandhi tells OpIndia that these kind of property deals are rampant in various parts of Gujarat as people exploit the legal loopholes. In this case, they were able to get the deal cancelled and action taken because of support of people with political will like Purnesh Modi, Surat West MLA.

Describing how the deceitful transactions are taking place, Gandhi said that there are three major ways these deals take place. “One, they don’t go through the regular route but just go ahead with notarised documents which circumvents the entire process ahead of transfer of property. Then sometimes they don’t wait for transfer of property and start construction on the land already. The flats would be constructed and sold off and buyers would be left cheated as the land ownership was not transferred. And third method is setting up a middleman who takes permissions in his names and then eventually leaves,” he said.

Many areas in Surat in recent times have had a change in religious identity. “In Gopipura area, there are 44 Jain temples and it had sizeable Jain population. However, now only few Jain families live there and the area has become a Muslim dominated area. Similarly, in Nanavat area, there is a very old Radha Krishna temple. Now, with demography change, the temple structure remains but the idols have been moved to another temple in Piplod area. The temple is left without the deities,” Gandhi lamented.

“This is not just in Surat, but similar things are being done in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Kalol and other places in Gujarat, using same modus operandi,” he said.

Disturbed Areas Act in Gujarat

It must be noted that Adajan in Surat falls under the Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act where transfer of immovable property can take place only after the Collector signs off an application made by the buyer and seller of the property. The seller, in the application, must mention that the seller is selling the property by their own free will.

Essentially, the Collector is the peacekeeper of the district and it is his/her responsibility that the communal harmony is maintained. To make sure things don’t escalate and communal riots do not break out, the Collector has the responsibility of keeping peace.

Through this Act, the government is trying to keep a check on the polarisation of communities in sensitive parts of the state.

Ahmedabad’s Varsha Flats in Paldi: What went wrong

Similar case had happened in Ahmedabad’s Paldi area where the Disturbed Areas Act is in place. In June 2019, Varsha Flats in Jankalyan Cooperative Housing Society in Paldi landed in controversy after mandatory sanction sale was withdrawn. When the society went for redevelopment, many Muslim families purchased the property. However, because the area falls under Disturbed Areas Act, the due process including Collector’s permission would be needed for the deal to be concluded.

Subsequently, Collector asked the 13 residents of Varsha Flats to vacate the apartments as they were in violation of the Disturbed Areas Act. An FIR was filed against the builders and owners of Varsha Flat for violation of the Disturbed Areas Act. The residents had then approached the High Court which asked them to approach Special Secretary Revenue (Appeal and Revision) against the District Collector’s refusal to sanction sale.

Dwarka and Somnath, the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites

Mumbai resident Anand narrates his brush with subtle change in demographics and says during his recent week-long trip to the holy places of Somnath and Dwarka in Gujarat. He said that one of the places for pilgrimage was ‘Beyt Dwarka’, which was the residence of Lord Krishna during the time he ruled Gujarat. It is a small island off the coast of Dwarka and one needs to take about 30 minute boat-ride from Okha.

Anand says, for Dwarka-darshan, a bus-conductor cum guide, a practicing Brahmin, enthusiastically talked about the rich heritage of Gujarat and Shri Krishna’s Dwarka. “He told us about the families which inhabit the island now. As of now about 7,000 families live on the island, of which about 6,000 families are Muslim families. I was shocked at such demography of a place of Hindu pilgrimage in a Hindu majority country,” he said.

However, his guide explained that the entire region has salty water and fertility is very low. The Muslims in the area engage in fishing and fisheries related activities for livelihood. “Brahmins on the island are dependent on the very little money they make from Puja at temple and other rituals. Since Hindu population on the island is decreasing, demand for rituals in homes is also decreasing,” the guide told Anand.

Anand, describing his journey from Okha to Beyt Dwarka, one of the holy sites for Hindu pilgrimage, said that his first visuals were of a mosque. “You will see hundreds of fishing boats along the way and most of these boats would have two flags, one flag would be an Indian flag, perhaps for the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, and the Islamic flag. Similar sights are there throughout Dwarka as well. The mosques and dargahs are strategically placed on the western coast of India.

For example, here is a map of Shree Somnath temple, the first Jyotirlinga and one of the holiest sites for Hindus.

Somnath temple

In one kilometre radius of Shree Somnath temple, there are at least three dargahs/masjids.

Beyt Dwarka map

Beyt Dwarka was once the residence of Lord Krishna and Somnath has a history of attacks and looting and destruction by many Islamist rulers. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and looted Somnath 17 times.

While every Indian citizen has the right to reside in any part of India and the constitution ensures no discrimination is carried out, constitution also provides for safety and security of every Indian. If the history of India, especially in places like Kashmir is anything to go by, the demography change has resulted into Hindus having to flee to protect their lives as well as religious identities.

That the demography change in these areas is subtle, it is real and should act as a cautionary tale.

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Nirwa Mehta
Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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