Annadale ground issue in forefront again in Himachal

Annadale Ground Shimla
Annadale Ground at Shimla which has started a war of words between the Army and the BJP government in the state.

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal have again raised up the issue of control over Shimla’s Annandale grounds with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said he would meet Defence Minister AK Antony also on the issue. Dhumal led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh is at loggerheads with the army over controlling the prime piece of real estate in the heart of Shimla town.

Dhumal told reporters in Delhi that “the way the army people are interfering in Shimla on the Annadale issue, indiscipline is increasing and army officers are making press statements. Indiscipline in central forces is an issue of serious concern.”

“I have met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I have personally brought the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister. I am also trying to meet the Defence Minister and seeking time from him today,” Dhumal, who was in Delhi to attend the meeting of CMs on internal security, said.

Annandale Ground in Shimla is a huge open space surrounded by thick forests, about 4.5km below the state capital’s famous Ridge.

Asked about moving the court against the army for making “defamatory” statements, Dhumal said “some press statement has been given. I have said if an unconditional apology is tendered it is fine, otherwise I am filing a defamation suit in the court. The allegations are without any basis… I don’t know why such a statement has been given. Now, let them face the result of giving such statements.”

The army-Himachal govt arow had escalated after the army had in a statement said national security cannot be ignored for “game and gimmicks”. The army maintains Anandale is of strategic significance.

The Himachal CM said “they (army) are in forcible occupation of the Annadale land since 1982. The residents of Shimla are launching a Jan Andolan. Over one lakh people have given a memorandum to reclaim the prime land and convert it into a playground and develop parks. army officers are only playing Golf there. Let them produce the record what they have been doing there for last 30 years on the basis of security.”

The 121-bigha ground at Annandale has been under the army’s control since World War II.

The row between the state government and the army came to the fore afresh amid an intensified campaign launched by Himachal Pradesh Cricket association headed by Anurag Thakur, MP and son of Dhumal, to restore it to the state authorities.

Meanwhile CPI(M) in Himachal Pradesh alleged the state government’s insidious campaign for possession of Annandale ground was motivated by vested interests and has a very strong nexus with land mafia.

Speaking to the media,Tikender Panwar, CPI(M) leader and Shimla Dy. Mayor said, “The insidious campaign has a very strong nexus with land mafia which is bent upon changing the nature of the ground and the past history in Shimla town is a pointer towards this nexus in which the government has acted in the interest of real estate mafia and not for the state or the people”.

Tikender said in case of DLF project under construction in Kanlog and take over of the Himlayan International School at Charabra where the real estate interests superseded the law of the land. “Even in the case of Annandale, the story was no different”, he added.

He said first the campaign was led by the HPCA which led a signature campaign with a foremost demand of converting this ground into a cricket stadium but after a strong parallel campaign led by CPI(M)’s frontal outfit DYFI they formed a wider umbrella and also changed their demand from a cricket stadium to a multipurpose one.

“But it was just a guise to grab the ground for their ulterior motives and DYFI openly alleged that the HPCA campaign was backed by some of the land mafia who have already purchased more than 25 bighas of land in areas surrounding the Annandale ground and the buyers happened to be leaders of ruling BJP”, Tikender alleged.

(With input from PTI)

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