Army illegally occupying Annandale Ground: CM | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Army illegally occupying Annandale Ground: CM

The ground credited for popularising football in India and hosting the Durand Cup tournament for the first time in 1888 is now caught in a battle of possession between the army and the Himachal Pradesh government.

chandigarh Updated: Apr 15, 2012 21:46 IST
HT Correspondent

The ground credited for popularising football in India and hosting the Durand Cup tournament for the first time in 1888 is now caught in a battle of possession between the army and the Himachal Pradesh government. The tussle over Annandale Ground in Shimla took a new turn on Sunday with chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal claiming that the army is illegally occupying the ground.

Reacting to Saturday's statement issued by the Western Command, Chandimandir, Dhumal asked the army to tender an unconditional apology for accusing the state government of acting under the influence of the land mafia, failing which he would file a defamation suit against it.

"Appropriate legal action will also be initiated. The statement issued by the Western Command is false, baseless and misleading. The fact is that Annandale Ground is under the illegal occupation of the army since the lease of the property expired over 30 years ago," said the chief minister in a press release issued here.

Dhumal said the issue of handing over Annandale Ground to the state government was brought to the notice of the Centre during the NDA rule. He said the issue was discussed in detail in South Block with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and defence minister George Fernandes in the presence of the army authorities." It was decided to provide land elsewhere to the army and get the ground vacated for sports-related activities. The state government identified several alternative sites. The local army authorities inspected these sites but rejected all of them," he claimed.

Dhumal said the Himachal Pradesh high court had recently passed directions to the state government to mark a suitable place for sports activities in Shimla so as to give exposure to budding sportspersons. He said residents of Shimla had launched a signature campaign supported by 14 sports associations to get back the ground from the army. "The signed memorandum was addressed to me. There were 1.08 lakh signatories to the campaign," said Dhumal.

The chief minister further alleged that it appeared from the statement issued by the Western Command that the Save Annandale campaign launched by awakened citizens of the town had been painted in a political colour to malign the "clean image" of Himachal Pradesh and its chief minister.

"The army authorities are trying in vain to continue their illegal possession of Annandale Ground for over three decades in the garb of preserving the forest cover. Contradictory to the army's claim, the forest cover in the state has increased by hundreds of square kilometres in the past few years," he said.