Saturday, September 1, 2012

MoD lays claim on Skinner Estate

MoD lays claim on Skinner Estate
Raman Mohan/TNS
Friday, August 31, 2012, Chandigarh, India
Hisar, August 30
The Ministry of Defence has laid its claim on the famed Skinner Estate in Hansi, a sub divisional town of the district about 25 km from here. The estate under litigation is located on the Delhi Road. Its commercial value is estimated at Rs 200 crore.
The Defence Estate Officer of the Bathinda circle of the ministry has filed an application in a court at Hansi saying that the land belonged to the Indian Army and its sale by a builder was illegal. It said that the estate was established by Col James Skinner who raised the Skinner’s Horse regiment, a cavalry unit which was now a part of the Indian Army.
Skinner established the regiment’s headquarters on this land measuring 214 kanals of land. The Officers’ Mess and a graveyard to bury the martyrs was also established on this land. Through a lawyer the Defence Estate Officer pleaded that the respondents had accepted these facts in a petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He reiterated that the land had historical monuments which are of great importance to the army and these should not be allowed to be demolished.
The estate has been a subject of controversy for three decades now when it was first sold in the late eighties. However, the deal fell through. About two years ago, a group of residents of Hansi led by a politician purchased this land from some of the descendants of Skinner. The legal complications however prevented the group of builders from selling plots carved out from this land.
After reaching a settlement with the company which had purchased the land in the eighties, hundreds of trees inside the estate were cut and plots were carved out for sale.
Some of the other descendants of Skinner filed a suit in a local court against the builder. The Defence Ministry has pleaded in its application that it be made a party to this case.
The land was granted to James Skinner as a ‘jagir’ by the British for the services he rendered to the British in the battle for Bharatpur in 1818. The ‘jagir’ rendered Skinner a revenue of Rs 20,000 a year in those days.
Skinner was born in 1778 in Calcutta to Lt Col Hercules Skinner, a Scottish officer in the British Army. James Skinner’s mother was a daughter of a blue-blooded Rajput zamindar. She was taken prisoner in her teens during a battle. James’s father took her under his care and married her. They had six children. His mother committed suicide when he was 12 years old.
Because of his Indian lineage, Skinner was ineligible to serve as an officer in the British army like his father. So at the age of 16, he joined the Maratha army as an ensign under a French commander of the army of the then Gwalior state. He served the Gwalior army for several years and impressed his superiors to rise in the ranks. However, he was dismissed from the Maratha army after the outbreak of the second Anglo-Maratha War. He was sacked along with all other Anglo-Indians.
He kept trying to join the British Indian Army then commanded by Lord Lake. On February 23, 1803, Skinner raised a regiment of irregular cavalry and named it as Skinner's Horse. The officers and men of the regiment were called the Yellow Boys after the colour of their uniform. The regiment showed its prowess in many battles and ultimately it became the most decorated regiment of light cavalry in the British Indian Army. It is still a part of the Indian Army.
In 1828, James was promoted to the rank of a Lt Col in the British Army, while his brother, Robert was promoted as a Major. Later, James became a Colonel after having been appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath on December 26, 1826.
MoD lays claim on Skinner Estate

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