BHOPAL: Investigation into the alleged grabbing and sale of an over nine-hectare church land in Indore district of Madhya Pradesh has led the state police to a thriving nexus involving a land shark, revenue department staff and local criminals with political links.The Special Task Force of state police (MPSTF) recently arrested a 70-year-old former railway employee, Solomon Smith, from Jaipur in Rajasthan. The man, who is now in judicial custody, was accused to have colluded with one Manglilal Thakur, a murder-accused jailbird with strong political connects in Indore, and several revenue department staff for grabbing over nine hectares of land in Rasalpura, which was donated to a Canadian Church by the ruling Holkars in Mhow town of Indore district in 1926.
In February, the STF lodged a case against Smith and Thakur, besides several unidentified accused under IPC Sections 120B, 420, 467, 468 and 471 for the alleged land-grabbing and sale by tampering revenue records.Probe revealed that Smith, who owns big properties in Jaipur, had formed a bogus institution named Indian Canadian Presbyterian Mission (ICPM), which had members like his driver and wife, typist and some unemployed Christian youths from Khandwa district of MP.
Smith used this bogus entity to grab the Rasalpura Church land in early 1990s. He sold it for ` 1.5 crore to a private builder group and Thakur in 2015, despite the land being actually worth over ` 8.5 crore, MPSTF sources told The Sunday Standard.Thakur, to whom a small part of the land was sold, is presently in jail in connection with the 2015 murder of an advocate, Yogesh Garg. Thakur’s wife is a member of the ruling BJP in Indore, seen as a saffron party citadel.
The STF is now zeroing in on revenue department staff who colluded with Smith for giving him ownership rights over the land, a senior STF officer said. Under the scanner are the then revenue department and board officials, including IAS officer MK Singh, who was the member of revenue board in 2004. Singh, a 1985 batch MP cadre IAS officer, was recently put under compulsory retirement by the Central government as he is facing major corruption charges.
“The arrest of Smith in the case is just the tip of an iceberg. Further investigation in the case is bound to increase the number of accused,” said Arun Mishra, MPSTF SP (Indore).