A 56-acre parcel of land owned by the Dera Sacha Sauda in Telangana’s Nalgonda district has triggered a controversy with local villagers asking the government to take possession of the property.
The Dera Sacha Sauda acquired the land at Veliminedu village of Chityal block in Nalgonda district, abutting the Hyderabad-Vijayawada national highway in 2008. It soon constructed a huge compound wall and erected boards with the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s photos, appealing to the people to take his blessings.
But soon after news of his conviction on rape charges and widespread violence by his supporters reached the area, local villagers contacted revenue officials and said no one knew what happened inside the fortified compound, except that cars were seen entering and exiting the property.
Villagers say 15 out of the 56 acres was land allotted to the landless. “We made a representation to the revenue authorities to take possession of the entire land, since the so-called Baba was convicted by the court, and distribute it among the landless people,” said Seenu, a local resident.
“The value of the land, according to current market prices, will be not less than Rs 50 crore,” said B Ramesh, a local reporter of a vernacular television channel.
The government has ordered revenue officials to visit the area and conduct a survey. Chityal tehsildar Vishalakshi told HT that she had visited the spot and inspected the records. “As per the records, there is a piece of around 7.5 acres of assigned land. However, we would do a resurvey to find out the actual extent of the assigned land. As of now, we have not taken over this piece of land, because of the court decree. We shall report the matter to the government and act according to the directions,” she said.
The property is being taken care of a realtor Shyamlal, who claims to be an ardent devotee of Baba. “I, along with some other followers of Dera sect, pooled funds and bought the land in 2008. It was registered in the name of Dera Sacha Sauda trust and our names have been mentioned in the documents as the trustees. It is just a farm land as of now and we are growing vegetables, pulses and other crops here, We are planning to construct an ashram here, where Satsang programmes are conducted regularly to spread spirituality among the people,” Shyamlal told HT.l
He admitted that a part of the land was assigned land, but it was only nine acres and not 15 acres. “When we bought it, we were not aware that it was assigned land. We represented to the government to regularise the land and we are ready to pay whatever price it decides,” he said.
Shyamlal, who originally belongs to Haryana, settled in Hyderabad along with his family. “I became the disciple of Baba Ram Rahim in 2000 and since then, I have been spreading his message,” he said.
Singh had never come to the Ashram land at Veliminedu. “He came to Hyderabad several times in the past, including 2016, to deliver spiritual Satsang speeches. But he has no ashram in Hyderabad or elsewhere in Telangana or Andhra,” Shyamlal said.