MUMBAI: More than 1,600 acres of land under dispute near the Nevali airstrip in Kalyan taluka of Thane district has been tilled by farmers for around 75 years. However, the Ministry of Defence has the
records for all the land in its name.
“We have been farming the land since the time of our forefathers. Yes, we too have heard that the land was acquired by the British government during World War II. But, our ancestors told us the land was returned to us after the war and since then we have been tilling it,” said Mathur Mhatre, president of the Shri
Malang gad Parisar Jamin Bachav Andolan Samiti, the farmers’ body that organised Thursday’s agitation.
However, commander Rahul Sinha, chief public relations officer (Defence), in a statement released in Mumbai said, “The land is owned by Ministry of Defence / Indian Navy and the State government land
records certify the same. The 7/12 extracts are held with Defence Estate Officer, Mumbai. The land was acquired by Ministry of Defence.”
“The Navy is constructing a peripheral boundary wall to protect and safeguard the defence land from further encroachment. The Maharashtra government is fully aware of the subject case and is providing police protection and support from state/ district administration and revenue authorities,” the statement
“What was the defence department doing for the past 75 years? How do they term us encroachers while we have been tilling the land all these years,” questioned Mhatre. However, nobody seems to have any answer to queries raised by him or the other villagers. “We met Bhamre sahib last month in Mumbai to request him to look into our issue. He promised us that he would consider our case. But nothing happened after that. The people are angered at the prospect of losing their land,” Mhatre added.
Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre was in Dhule on Thursday when the agitation over the Nevali land turned violent. Speaking to the media, he said he has called a meeting of all the officers
concerned next week and reiterated his promise that the issue would be resolved amicably.