Govt to acquire land of Karmapa's Monastery

Dharamsala: Himachal Pradesh government is now moving to acquire the land of Gyuto Monastery, the transit home of Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje, as the probe into seizure of large amount of foreign currency from the monastery brought fresh focus on benami deals by the community members.

Officials said that the process of mutation of 'benami' lands in possession of "the Dalai Lama's administration" was on since 2006 and the titles of 73 such properties, including the sprawling premises of Gyuto Monastery, are being transferred in the name of the government.

The government had agreed to consider regularisation of these 'benami' properties by vesting the ownership in the government and further leasing these out to Tibetan Administration, they said.

The information about these lands on which the Tibetan "government-in-exile" had raised structures was provided to the government by Tibetan "administration", official sources said.

Kangra Deputy Commissioner RS Gupta said that it was a routine revenue exercise and mutation in 40 cases had already been done while the title transfer in respect of remaining lands was in process.

"The Gyuto Monastery complex was one such property on which the Dalai Lama administration had build the monastery and the land on which the construction had been done would vest in the government," he said.

Officials said that the process of "regularising" these properties has been hastened after foreign currency worth Rs 7.5 crore belonging to 25 countries including China was recovered by police from the premises of a Karmapa-backed trust and some of the trustees.

The raids followed recovery of Rs one crore from two persons on Mehatpur border on January 25 last, allegedly drawn from a bank in Delhi for some land deal.

However, Gupta said that there will be no immediate physical takeover of the property.

The Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act prohibits purchase of land by any non-agriculturists who are not bonafide Himachalis.

The Gyuto Monastery land, estimated to be worth Rs two crore, was registered in 2002 the name of two persons Dili Ram s/o Ganga Ram and Prem Singh s/o Tashi Norbu.

The Karmapa-backed Karmae Garchan Trust which maintains the monastery has no title.

Tehsildar (Dharamsala) Naresh Kumar, a senior revenue officer, said last week he has sent an official communication to the Gyuto Monastery officials informing them that the property title would be transferred in the government's name on February 15.

The sprawling property at Sidhbari, near Dharamsala, is spread over an area of over 50 kanalsand worth Rs two crore.

The Trust officials refused to comment on the issue. In 2006-2007, the then Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh had granted relief to the Tibetans after being approached by the central Tibetan administration.

He ordered that if a benami property was being used by the Dalai Lama's administration for education or religious purposes, the Deputy Commissioners would be empowered to give it on a 30-year lease charging 10 per cent of the property value as lease money.

However, the sources said that the matter was caught in legal wranglings.

Benami lands of other Tibetans would not be covered in the current mutation process.

Police have arrested seven persons in connection with the foreign currency seizure. These include Shakti Lama, a key aide of the Karmapa, Dharamsala-based hotelier K P Bharadwaj, Manager of Ambala branch of Corporation Bank D K Dhar and a couple -- Karma Thapa and his wife Rinzin.