Srinagar: In wake of the rage among Gujjar and Bakarwal communities and outrage JK political parties showed over the recent demolition of hutments of Gujjar and Bakarwal communities, the erstwhile state’s Forest Department has issued eviction notices to more “unauthorized occupants” of the forest land in various areas of Jammu and Kashmir
According to an order copy, accessed by Free Press Kashmir, one of such notice has been issued to Haji Makhan, son of Kalu Din, a resident of Chanda Nall area in Fafal of Kathua district.
As per the notice, the Haji Makhan is “occupying” 1.00 kanal land in Androte Fafal forest of Kathua.
“The report submitted by Range officer Kathua reveals that you are in unauthorized occupation of 1.00 Kanal (0.05 hac) (Approx) of forest land including Kachha and Pacca structure falling in Compt No 30/K of Barwal Beat of Androte Fafal forest in village Chanda Nall (Fafal) Tehsil and District Kathua,” mentions the notice.
The notice further reads: “In pursuance of section 79-A of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, undersigned call upon you show cause to represent your case personally or through lawyer within ten days at DFO office Kathua through written objections as to why you should not be evicted forcefully from the said forest land, failing of which it shall be presumed that you have nothing to say in your defense and an eviction order shall be passed against you.”
Besides Kathua, notices were also issued in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district seeking the eviction of “occupants” from the forest area.
In South Kashmir’s Pahalgam, earlier in the month, many structures were “demolished” and families were asked to leave the forest lands.
On November 13, a video surfaced on a social media platform showing Gujjar Kothas being demolished by the forest authorities and that was what the Anantnag administration called “Anti Encroachment” drive.
The video, however, fetched a widespread criticism, from political leaders to social activists asking the administration to stop “vandalizing” the structures.
On this, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference said that the recent demolition of hutments of Gujjar and Bakarwal community gives an insight into the “discrimination and apathy” that the BJP nurtures against them debunking their claims on being guardian of tribal rights.
Ever since BJP came into power, there has unfortunately no cessation to the hostility against the Gujjar and Bakarwal community, which forms the third biggest ethic block in the region, the party spokesman said.
A delegation from the party who visited the area “unequivocally condemned the highhandedness of the officials saying that targeting Gujjars.
“It seems, it is the part of the larger design of BJP to disenfranchise every segment of society in JK, and that intimidating Gujjars, bulldozing their poor dwellings, attacking their cattle should be seen in that direction,” said the NC spokesman.
The former Chief Minister of JK and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also visited the area and said that GoI is “tormenting” the Gujjars and Bakarwals under the garb of new land laws.
Mehbooba said that the actual displacement of people has started most unfortunately with the “forcible eviction” of Gujjars and Bakarwals from their pastures
“The Gujjars have been using log and mud sheds in pasture lands since times immemorial during the grazing season. They are part of the forest and our environment. Sadly, a drive has been launched to demolish these structures which they use as temporary shelters during summers. Their families have been harassed, using strong arm methods where in desperation they wanted to resist their main support to their livelihood. Does this mean that these nomadic tribes can no longer go to pastures? Is that the Part 2 of this displacement scheme? Who do they intend to sell the forest land to?,” asked the former Chief Minister.
Mehbooba claimed that GoI has requisitioned – 24 thousands kanals of Forest Land for setting up “industries” there.
Mufti said that will be a disaster for not only the forests and environment but also cause in the Gujjar community being rendered homeless.
“I am unable to understand why the Forest Department has started to demolish the Kothas. Neither have we occupied these lands nor do we live there permanently. We live there for 6 months during summers but why is this being done,” Zahid Parwaz Choudhary, President Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar Bakarwal Youth Welfare Conference tweeted while sharing the “demolition” video from Pahalgam.
In this regard, District Commissioner, Anantnag, K K Sidha, while talking to Speaking to Free Press Kashmir said: “it is not demolition of Gujjar Kothas but actually anti-encroachment drives. Till now we have retrieved 700 kannals of land that was encroached and we are submitting a report to the high court also.”
Sidha said they are retrieving all the forest land or government land that has been under “illegal occupation”.
“Nobody is shelter less, these were all abandoned structures and the sole motive of enacting them was only to grab possession of the land. Divisional bench is monitoring the development authority and they have given direction to remove all the unauthorised structures on forest land,” he added.