Protests broke out at multiple places in J&K on Saturday as the Lieutenant Governor’s (L-G) administration stepped up the drive to evict people from ‘State land’ and ordered the police “to maintain strict vigil on law and order situation and those people commenting negatively against the move”.
Violent protests broke out in Jammu’s Bathindi area where locals attacked earthmovers and cranes with stones to stop the demolition drive. Multiple structures, including shopping complexes, were dismantled by the administration in Bathindi and Malik Market. Raising anti-BJP slogans, scores of women protesters alleged they were “being harassed and feared their homes would be demolished too”. “The BJP must stop this misadventure,” a woman protester said.
National Conference (NC) leader Sajjad Shaheen alleged that there was selective targeting of a particular community in J&K, particularly in Narwal Jammu, in the garb of “land eviction drive”. “It’s tragic and highly condemnable. Seems like the BJP-patronised government is at war with its own people. The administration should adopt a humane approach and stop this biased exercise,” he said.
A shutdown was observed in Banihal market in Ramban district where locals hit the streets against the administration’s move to serve notices to shopkeepers.
Eviction of locals from ‘State land’ continued in the Kashmir valley’s 10 districts. Officials said a portion of the house of advocate Shabnum Gani Lone, sister of Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone, was demolished during the drive. A portion of land occupied by former deputy commissioner and Jamaat-e-Aitqaad International chairman Farooq Renzu in Budgam’s Humhama was also retrieved, they added.
‘State land’ allegedly occupied and properties constructed illegally on it by several leaders of National Conference, Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have already faced earthmovers in the Kashmir valley.
Alleged encroachments were removed from Srinagar’s Padshahi Bagh and Mejhoor Nagar area on Saturday. However, the officials faced stiff resistance from the locals and the affected families. Besides, a shopping mall was also sealed in the city.
“What happened in Padshahi Bagh is heart-wrenching. We would not be silent spectators. Legal procedure is being thrown to the winds and bulldozers are being used to torment and intimidate hapless citizens,” J&K People’s Party head Sheeban Ashai said.
In south Kashmir’s Anantnag, an official spokesman said the administration retrieved land from three stone crusher units at Bumthan. “A total of 25 kanals of land was retrieved,” he said.
One official estimate suggested that 38,645 kanals of ‘State land’ was retrieved from Kishtwar, 40,000 kanals from Anantnag, 12,751 kanals from Kathua, 13,431 kanals from Ganderbal, 4,021 kanals from Kupwara, 28,000 kanals from Bandipora and 2,145 kanals from Baramulla in J&K.
Arun Kumar Mehta, J&K Chief Secretary, in a meeting held recently, has sought reports from officials on a daily basis.
“Deputy Commissioners and Senior Superintendents of Police were directed to monitor the law-and-order situation during these anti-encroachment or eviction drives and take all preventive and corrective measures in advance,” the minutes of the meeting suggested.
It warned that any adverse court order or stay would be the responsibility of the officer concerned appearing before the court. “Failing to appear, he (official) would be held accountable and removed with immediate effect,” it said.
It directed the Additional Director Generals of Police (ADGPs) and Divisional Commissioners to “inquire and investigate any person observed or found to make negative statements with respect to present anti-encroachment drives to check whether they have encroached land which they are defending”.
Meanwhile, Democratic Azad Party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad, who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has decided to call off protests against the anti-encroachment drive.
“After meeting Mr. Shah in Delhi and later LG J&K assuring that only land will be retrieved from mafias, the DAP will call off the protests. Let’s watch and see how things are unfolding on the ground,” Mr. Azad said
He, however, added that there was complete chaos on the ground since the authorities are not abiding by the directions of L-G Manoj Sinha and are mostly troubling the poor.