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First complete shutdown response to eviction drive comes from Bathindi, Sunjwan; MP Khatana joins

JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir’s first major show of dissent against the UT administration’s ongoing eviction drive was witnessed in Bathindi and Sunjwan areas of Jammu on Monday, where locals observed a complete shutdown and carried out a peaceful flag march.

While different political leaders across Jammu and Kashmir have spoken against the drive initiated on January 9 to remove encroachments from the state, Roshni and Kahcharai land, Monday’s was the first protest of this scale.

Alleging selective targeting of the two areas, locals asked MP Ghulam Ali Khatana to take up their concerns with the administration, leading to formation of a delegation, which will accompany Khatana to meet the Deputy Commissioner Jammu.

Incidentally, long before Satya Pal Malik administration scrapped the Roshni Act in 2018 and J&K High Court decalred it unconstitutional in 2020, Bathindi, Sunjwan and Chowadhi were part of the ‘land encroachment’ narrative.

While concerns of those in possession of such lands across Jammu and Kashmir arose after 2020, the three localities were in news for several years before that, especially after former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and many other influential people built their houses in Bathindi.

Even after the UT government’s first practical initiative to remove these alleged encroachments, there was no response from any of these localities.

However, on the second last day of the eviction drive, there was a complete, voluntary and unanimous shutdown in the two neighbourhoods.

Traffic snarled while shops observed a complete shutdown as residents of these two localities, including women and children, marched from Bathindi to Sunjwan this morning, holding tricolor in their hands and raising slogans against the eviction drive.

‘Todh Fodh Bandh Karo’, the 600-strong crowd chanted as it passed through the interiors of the two localities, in the pouring rain, which earlier delayed their march scheduled at 10 am, by one-and-a-half-hour.

“The eviction drive is a cruel move aimed at disrupting the lives of the people. While the entire Jammu and Kashmir is facing this assault, Bathindi and Sunjwan are being selectively targeted by the administration. We will not back off until the eviction drive is rolled back,” said Zaheer Choudhary, a social activist from Jalalabad.

The protestors were led by Naziera Bibi, Chairperson, Block Development Council, Satwari and Sarpanches and Panches, even as there was a complete shutdown observed by the shopkeepers in the areas till 1 pm.

It was around this time that Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Ali Khatana reached out to the protestors.

Handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Muslim representative in Rajya Sabha, Khatana incidentally belongs to Bathindi. Khatana, who was asked by the locals to take up their concerns with the administration, asked the protestors to form a delegation.

The Dispatch has learnt that a 10-member-delegation, will be accompanied by Khatana to meet Deputy Commissioner Jammu. The meeting will be held later in the day, and further course of the protest will be decided after it.

The protestors, however, said that if no relief is given, they will continue their protests on Tuesday as well.
The medical shops opened around 1:35 pm, while the other shops also started opening up around 2 pm, as protestors urged the other shop owners to shut down their businesses Tuesday morning.

There was no report of any law and order situation in the areas, the police said.

“The protests passed off peacefully. There was disruption in the movement of traffic as a large number of people came out on the road, but there was no law and order situation,” an officer told The Dispatch.
Around four dozen cops were deployed in the area, mainly at the two junctions, while Tehsildar Bahu and SDPO City East Jammu were also present in the area.



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