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Ramesh Menon Part 1 Part 2
As Dau Brijendra Singh, 77, sits on a creaky charpoy at his sprawling home in Piprod village of Guna district in Madhya Pradesh, he wonders why reporters are suddenly asking him so many questions.
"All of you are after the Chief Justiceji," he concludes. "He is a good person and we have done no wrong. Ram Jethmalani does not know what he is saying."
The land that is now in focus belonged to Mala Anand's late father, Major General Yadhunath Singh and late grandfather, General Girdhari Singh. The story started in the early 1950s. Brijendra Singh was around 26 then.
He was bored of his job in the ground engineering department of the Royal Air Force. He hated urban India. He wanted to get into mechanised farming. He wanted to watch the magic grow in his fields.
He had a piece of land in Aligarh, but he lost most of it when the 1950 Zamindari Act came into force. He lost heart. That was when he decided to move to Guna in Madhya Pradesh.
The trip was to draft the help of a relative, Thakur Parmal Singh Tomar, a retired conservator of forests. He had promised to help Brijendra Singh realise his dream.
The forester took him to the Guna collector. Brijendra Singh requested for about 1,300 bighas of land [650 acres]. The collector showed him a tract of thick forest. And there was another problem -- so much land could not be given to one individual.
Brijendra Singh took the matter to his extended family. The elders said that was hardly a problem, as all their names could be used to divide the land into small parts.
That was it. Two lists were prepared. Among the beneficiaries were Mala Anand's grandfather, General Girdhari Singh and her father, Major General Yadunath Singh. Both got 57 acres each. That was 114 acres of contiguous land.
The land was given free not for their meritorious services as it is largely believed, but because the Madhya Bharat government at that time wanted to encourage cultivation and habitation in thickly-forested Piprod.
"It was a dense forest. It took ages to cut it down and make the land cultivable. The area was teeming with wildlife. There were wild animals raiding our land all the time," Brijendra Singh recalls. "We got the land free, but I sweated for years to make it cultivable. I learnt to live with fear."
"We are straightforward people," he continues. "No one would have bothered if the Chief Justice's wife had not been a beneficiary of the judgments."
Other relatives too got similar plots. But it was Brijendra Singh who cultivated the land; the others were too busy to bother.
The lease agreement for the land clearly spelt out three conditions:
1. The landlord must stay there.
If any these clauses were violated, the government could take the land back.
Both General Girdhari Singh and Major General Yadunath Singh did not live on that land. They did not cultivate the land. They did not pay revenue tax. (It was Rs 60.52 a year.)
As all the conditions were flouted, the Madhya Pradesh government took the land back in 1973 through the Guna collectorate. Government records show it was barren then.
Brijendra Singh admits that Major General Yadunath Singh had never wanted to cultivate the land. He just wanted it to set up an ashram.
To be fair, the government gave both men enough time. It was only in 1973 -- 22 years after -- that it decided to take over the land as they had violated the lease agreement. Legally, this could have been done in 1953 itself.
The government was on solid ground. Under section 176 (1) of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1959, if a landlord did not cultivate the land given to him for two years, or does not pay land revenue, or leaves the village, the local authority could take possession of the land. And that was what happened.
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