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The warring Sikhs and Muslims of Saharanpur had tried for an out-of-court settlement for the land dispute, much before it became a religiously divisive issue leading to riots in the city, sources tell HT.
“Almost three years back, some members of the gurdwara management committee sat with Moharram Ali Pappu, who according to an unchallenged court order was the real person behind the litigation over land, to settle the dispute once and for all. Money was also offered to him but somehow the deal fell through,” said a former member of the committee requesting anonymity.
The member was directly involved in the negotiation with Pappu.
After Saturday’s riots that left three dead, around three dozen others injured and more than 100 shops burnt down, Pappu is on the run. He has been named as one of the rioters. HT’s several attempts to get in touch with him were futile as his phone was switched off.
The litigation claiming that earlier there was a mosque on the land purchased by the gurdwara committee was filed by one Abdul Wahab. During court proceedings, however, he claimed Pappu asked him to move court in the name of religion and also offered him monetary help. The idea was to get the land declared as property under Wakf Board due to the prior existence of a mosque there.
The court in an order in May last year agreed with the gurdwara committee that there was no mosque on the land.
Sanjay Garg, a local Samajwadi Party leader and now the party candidate from Saharanpur in the coming by-election, confirmed to HT there indeed were efforts to settle the land dispute with Pappu. “But I don’t have any knowledge of any money being offered,” he said when asked to mediate in the dispute.
A city police official also confirmed to HT about the efforts to strike a deal between the gurdwara committee and Pappu.