Our very own deranged “mobile republic,” Arundhati Roy, that’s who. Where is Medha Patkar when you need her to launch a campaign to protect forest land from being encroached by outsiders?
The court of a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) has declared illegal a bungalow owned by writer-activist Arundhati Roy’s husband Pradip Kishen in the Panchmarhi Tiger Reserve in Hoshangabad district. Kishen’s lawyer Sushil Goyal said he will take the case to the court of Hoshangabad commissioner Manoj Shrivastava.
The SDM (civil), Pipariya, B Kirangopal on Tuesday dismissed film-maker Kishen’s appeal which argued that his vacation home was constructed on the land of a revenue village. The SDM pointed out that Kishen’s house stands on a plot of land which was notified as part of the forest sanctuary under section 18(1) of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1977.
Three other bungalows, including one owned by author Vikram Seth’s sister Aradhana, also stand in the notified area. In 2003, the local naib tehsildar had cancelled the land title change and mutation of these bungalows which had taken place in 1992. The SDM upheld the naib tehsildar’s cancellation of mutation.
Kishen had purchased two plots in Bariaam village, 7 km from the hilly town of Panchmarhi, in 1992 from Sharif Ahmed, a resident of Panchmarhi. However, under section 20 of the Wildlife Protection Act no right can be acquired ”in, on or over the land comprised within the limits of the area specified in such notification.” It means that purchase and sale of property is banned in the area. However, Kishen sold one part of his plot and constructed a bungalow on the remaining land between 1992 and 1996.
Even while the house was under construction the Special Area Development Authority of Panchmarhi (SADA) had issued a prohibitory notice to Kishen and Arundhati asking them to stop further construction. The notice mentioned that land use in and adjoining Panchmarhi have been frozen since 1973 under section 16 of the Madhya Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act. The notice cautioned that house was being constructed without valid authorization from SADA. The state forest department also sent them notices. In retaliation, Kishen alleged that they were under attack for opposing a new development plan in Panchmarhi.