New Delhi: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Monday warned the Army that he would file a defamation case against the defence force for allegedly accusing the Himachal Pradesh state government of colluding with land mafia to grab defence land.
Dhumal threatened to sue the Army despite the U-turn taken by the defence forces on Monday over the historic Annandale military ground. He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the issue and is also expected to meet Defence Minister AK Antony.
The Western Command of the Army also denied that it issued any statement accusing Dhumal of having links with the land mafia. According to an Army statement Dhumal government was taking away the Annandale military ground to make a cricket stadium and a hotel.
Reacting to the controversy, Army Chief General VK Singh said, "I have spoken to the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister and I have a good rapport. The Western Command has told us whose fault it is. We only have to rectify this. We don't have any problem. We told them that this area requires strategic work."
Dhumal termed as 'baseless' the allegations of land grab in connection with Annandale ground.
"The ground factually belongs to the government of Himachal Pradesh and is under unlawful occupation of the army. The Durand Cup (football) started from this ground in the 19th Century. It was given on lease of ten years to the army which was extended. But for the last 30 years the lease has not been renewed," Dhumal had said.
The 121-bigha ground, surrounded by thick forests just 4.5 km from Shimla's Ridge, has been under the Army's control since World War II and has now become a bone of contention between the state government and the Army. The Himachal Pradesh Cricket association (HPCA) headed by Anurag Thakur, MP and son of Dhumal, have been demanding that the Army return the land to the state authorities.
The historic ground from where the Durand Cup started, was major centre of activities during British rule and also a race course, was leased to the Army during World War II, to be used as a training camp and the lease expired almost 30 years ago.