Is India in possession of more than 250 acres of Pakistani territory? At least that is what the revenue records of three thickly populated villages which are a few meters away from the international boundary in Ferozepur district show.
After 62 years of Independence, the land, despite being part of India, continues to be described as Pakistani territory in the border district’s revenue records. The anomaly, which shows major chunk of the three Punjab villages in Kasur district of Pakistan, dates back to 1947 — it was a clerical oversight. But the “oversight” has meant an invisible existence for the residents of Nihalewala, Kaluwala and Bear villages.
As most of the villagers settled in the area after migrating from Pakistan and started cultivating the land, there are no documents to back their claim on land. Fearing loss of possession, villagers didn’t report the “error” to the authorities. They haven’t ever tried to sell or purchase land.
With the villagers keeping mum, development bypassed the area. Amenities like sewerage, schools, hospital, road connectivity and drinking water supply are unheard of. It was only last year that the villages got electricity.
But there is one right the villagers have — to vote — which is probably how their predicament came to light. In fact, it was during the 2007 assembly elections that the “error” was noticed.
Out campaigning, BJP candidate Sukhpal Singh Nannu was attacked by villagers as soon as he stepped out of a boat. The villages, which together form a triangular island, are surrounded by Pakistan on two sides and Sutlej on the third and there is no bridge.
“They mistook me for a land grabber. Many people have been trying to occupy their land as it is not officially in possession of villagers,” he told HT.
When contacted, Ferozepur Deputy Commissioner Megh Raj didn’t know about the situation. Two days later, he sought a report from the revenue officials and acknowledged there was “no mention” of 100 acres of land near the Indo-Pak border in the Indian records.
District Revenue Officer S S Chann said, “Perhaps it was a clerical mistake committed during the consolidation of land records soon after Partition.”