India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Anjali Damania, who allegedly grabbed 60 acres of tribal land at throwaway prices by claiming to be a farmer, has now been accused of blocking the passage to the only crematorium in Kondivade village, 12km from Karjat tehshil. The villagers told DNA that she has put up a permanent barbed wire fence on the straight road leading to the crematorium on the banks of Ulhas river, forcing people to take the longer route to perform the last rites.
“We have no choice now but to carry the dead body on our shoulders for two kilometre compared to the half kilometre earlier. Anjali Damania has blocked the road to the crematorium by erecting a barbed wire fence. We asked her to keep the pathway which leads to the crematorium open, but she refused,” said Charabhai Sonawane, 72, adding that it is difficult to carry bodies for such a long stretch.
Around 500 people live in the village. They said they have been using the crematorium for several years. DNA on September 29 was the first to report that villagers of Kondivade were inconvenienced after Damania allegedly bought 60 acres of farm land there on an invalid farmer certificate.
Villagers complained that they also need to travel a fair distance to fetch water because of Damania’s refusal to remove the barbed wire fence. “When she bought land in our village, she promised to leave the traditional passage open. She is now backtracking on her promise,” said Alka Chavan, 42.
We feel bad that even senior citizens from the village have to walk 2km to get water for drinking and washing clothes,” said Alka Chavan, 42. “People are exploiting our land commercially and we are suffering. We do not even get basic amenities because of some land sharks.”
Baban Gaikwad, 64, a retired head master, says Damania has deprived the villagers of what they enjoy the most – being in the midst of nature – by blocking the pathway to the river. “We heard that the government has seized her property. It should also drive away people who bought villages in Alpine Village, a project of SVV Developers of which Damania is a director. The land belongs to tribals and it should be returned to them,” he said.
Gaikwad said he did not expect people who are fighting corruption and exposing top politicians to loot the poor. “Instead of protecting the rights of tribals, they are grabbing their land by misusing the farmer certificate. The government should file a case against Damania for cheating it by using a fake farmer certificate,” he said.
Damania is unfazed by the allegations. She said it would be difficult to leave a passage to the crematorium for villagers. “If that is done, no one will buy the developed land,” she told DNA, adding that she had all the documents to prove that she was the legal owner of the land. On Monday, however, Damania said she wouldn’t like to comment on the matter.
When pressed for further explanation, she questioned this reporter’s intention behind doing the story. “If this story is published, I will go to court. I will not allow people to question my integrity. I am fighting a big battle,” she said.
Anjali Damania previously told DNA that it would be difficult to leave a passage to the crematorium for villagers. “If that is done, no one will buy the developed land,” she said. However, on Monday, she said she wouldn’t like to comment.