Having blown the lid off a land scam in Jhamat village adjoining Ludhiana, Gurmukh Singh and Gurpal Singh are now facing the wrath of local politicians and officials.
They have been booked under sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on the complaint of the village sarpanch Gurmeet Kaur, who happens to be the daughter-in-law of former panch Charan Singh, one of the main accused in the scam that led to the panchayat losing 18.5 acres of its land.
The sections pertain to "keeping peace in other cases" and "preventing commission of cognisable offences", and give the police the right to detain or arrest. The law had been applied to detain social activist Anna Hazare ahead of his planned protest in New Delhi last August.
Gurpal, a member of the panchayat, and Gurmukh had procured documentary evidence that 18.5 acres of shamlat land, valued at Rs 180 crore, was allowed to go into the hands of members and associates of the clans that have been ruling the panchayat since Independence.
Despite getting repeated complaints, the district administration and the department of rural development have failed to retrieve the land.
In a report on June 18, HT had written about the incongruities.
The duo had first given complaints about the scam and some other irregularities in use of funds by the village panchayat to the then block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) Navneeet Joshi two years ago. However, the BDPO had said that the complaints were false and sent a report against the duo to the police. "Thereafter, local politicians told us to keep quiet or face the music. But we carried on with the fight. Even in 2010, we were booked under the same sections," said Gurmukh.
Following the report in HT, the director of rural development, Balwinder Singh, asked the district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) and the BDPO to inquire into the matter.
"As a result, the culprits of the scam have started using pressure tactics again," said Gurmukh.
"In 2010 too, when we first sent complaints to the department heads in Ludhiana and Chandigarh, the Hambran police had registered cases under sections 107/151 on the complaint given by the then BDPO Navneet Joshi. But we came out clean. Now our village comes under the jurisdiction of Haibowal police station, and with another case, the land-grabbers are once again trying their best to gag us," Gurmukh added.
Haibowal SHO Satinder Pal confirmed the registration of the latest cases: "We have acted on a complaint by the village sarpanch, who stated that Gurmukh Singh and Gurpal Singh were trying to disrupt works being executed by the panchayat."
Many of the past and present panchayat members, and their associates and relatives, have constructed house on the three acres that earlier had the village pond. These three acres are part of the 18.5 acres "usurped" by former sarpanch Bhan Singh and over 60 others.
It was in 1992 that Bhan Singh and the others first approached the Punjab consolidation officer, arguing that the land belonged to them. The case went to the consolidation officer in Sangrur and then Jalandhar in 1994.
The then sarpanch Sukhpal Singh contested the claims. However, he did not produce records to back his claim, allegedly on purpose. This led to the consolidation officer ruling that the land never belonged to the panchayat and be given to the 68 claimants.