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The Wire and Congress try to malign Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma with ‘land grabbing’ allegations: Read how the lies fell flat

In an article dated December 8, 2021, The Wire alleged that government land meant for the needy was transferred to a firm linked to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and his family members.

On Sunday (December 20), the Congress party accused Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma of grabbing land, meant for the landless in the State. The party sought the resignation of Sarma and a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the case.

As per reports, Congress party leaders including Gourav Vallabh, Ripun Bora, Abdul Khaleque, Gaurav Gogoi and Jitendra Singh had claimed that the incumbent CM used his power and influence to transfer 18 acres of government land to a company named RBS Realtors Private Limited. They alleged that the vast acres of land were transferred between the years 2006 and 2009 during which Sarma benefitted the company, which was co-founded by his wife.

The Congress party accused Himanta Biswa Sarma of helping the land mafia in taking over the land, meant for landless people. Gourav Vallabh said, “We demand that Sarma, who along with his family, is involved in usurping land for the landless people, should be immediately sacked from his position. A sitting chief minister, whose family is directly involved in land grabbing, has no right to remain in power. He must be immediately sacked from his position.”

Leftist propagandist website The Wire at the forefront of peddling misleading information about the land deal

In an article dated December 8, The Wire claimed, “The company in question, RBS Realtors Private Limited, acquired most of the 18 acres in two stages, first in 2006-2007 and then in 2009. During that period, Sarma’s wife, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, was a director of the company, and Sarma himself was an influential minister in the erstwhile Tarun Gogoi government.”

The left-propagandist outlet alleged, “In the last decade or so, while several states have amended their land ceiling laws to allow industry and non-farmers to buy large pieces of agricultural land and put them to non-agricultural use, Assam is not among them.”

It added, “Furthermore, individuals granted ceiling surplus land by the Assam government are prohibited from selling that land for a 10-year period. It is this backdrop which makes the ownership of a large swathe of ceiling surplus land by a company directly linked to chief minister Sarma especially problematic.”

The Wire alleged that despite a 10-year lock-in period, the land was registered and sold within 3 months of their allotment to the original beneficiaries. “By the time Sarma’s wife resigned from RBS Realtors’ directorship on June 9, 2009, however, some 80% of that total ceiling surplus land had already been acquired by the company. The government’s records show that they were acquired between January 24 and 28, 2009 – when she was still a director.”

Journalist debunks the propaganda surrounding the alleged ‘land grab’ scam

The erroneous claims made by The Wire were debunked by a Guwahati-based journalist named Atanu Bhuyan. The leftist news portal’s primary argument was the violation of the 10-year lock-in period, which was shredded by Bhuyan in a Twitter thread.

He wrote, “According to Land Policy of 1989 and Assam Land Revenue Regulation 1886, and Section 16 of Ceiling Act doesn’t restrict any sale before 10-years. The restriction came from 2019 during BJP’s Govt.”

Screengrab of the tweet by Atanu Bhuyan

He further added, “But, CM Himanta Biswa Sarma’s wife bought all the property in 2006. At that time, Revenue Commissioner CK Das issued a notice stating that no one could sell ceiling land before 10-years. But then again in 2008, High Court quashed this order. Property’s new owner Ranjit Bhattacharya told me that, on Friday they will file a defamation case against The Wire.”

Screengrab of the tweets by Atanu Bhuyan

A day later, Atanu Bhuyan took to Twitter to clarify that Section 16 of the Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act 1956 [pdf] recognised a ‘rayatee’ as a landholder who had deposited the premium amount.

“Section 9 of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation 1886 gives a landholder clear rights to transfer his land without any locking period of 10 years. He has a transferable right over the land,” he added.

Screengrab of the tweets by Atanu Bhuyan

Journalist Atanu Bhuyan informed that a source from The Wire had contacted him and claimed that none could sell ceiling lands before 10 years as per the 1956 Act.

Screengrab of the tweets by Atanu Bhuyan

“However, several senior advocates told me that there’s no such provision in the Act,” he concluded. After journalist Atanu Bhuyan debunked the central argument of the propaganda piece of The Wire, Congress leaders who are bent on besmirching Himanta Biswa Sarma’s reputation have now resorted to casting aspersions about the 15-year-old land deal.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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