JAMMU/SRINAGAR: Protests against the ongoing land eviction drive in Jammu and Kashmir continued at different places on Thursday, even as several political parties demanded an immediate end to the drive, except BJP which requested the Lt Governor-led administration to restrict the campaign to politicians, police officers and bureaucrats who have “misused” their power in the past to grab the land.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the J-K administration to issue clear orders on its assurance that ordinary shopkeepers will not be evicted, whereas BJP spokesman in Kashmir said “Baba ka bulldozer” will remove encroachments by influential people on government land.
While thousands of people including women and children continued their protests in Kunjwani-Bhatindi area on the outskirts of Jammu city for the fourth successive day against the eviction notices, members of Jammu Kashmir Kissan Tehreek led by senior CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami staged a protest in Kathua district town against the eviction drive.
“The land in question is under the occupation of people for generations and there is no justification in the eviction drive which is just to harass the public and deviate their attention from the real issues like statehood, elections, inflation and unemployment,” Tarigami alleged.
He said the people of Jammu and Kashmir need to come together against the alleged anti-people policies of the BJP-led government to safeguard the future of the coming generations.
“They have taken away our constitutional rights, our statehood and are now bent upon to take away our land. They are polarizing the situation to pitch people of different regions and sub-regions against each other,” he said, asking the people to take a cue from the people of Ladakh who have joined hands to press for statehood and constitutional safeguards for their land and jobs.
J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina, meanwhile, said they welcome the land eviction drive against influential people like politicians, bureaucrats and police officers who have misused their power to grab the state land in the past.
However, he said the ordinary people who do not possess much land and are poor should not be made to suffer under the drive.
Raina alleged that land grabbers are provoking the people to come on the roads against the drive to save their skin.
National Conference provincial president Jammu Rattan Lal Gupta said the anti-encroachment drive has led to chaotic situations all across the region with people getting frightened over the uncertainty about their future.
He made a fervent appeal to the Lt Governor to come out with a people-friendly policy to ensure that no one should be rendered homeless or jobless due to any kind of unfair action.
Senior AAP leader and former minister Harsh Dev Singh regretted that the indigent farmers, labourers and other landless people were being dispossessed of their marginal land holdings despite the assurances of the Lt Governor, thereby creating massive public uproar and resultant disenchantment with the present regime.
He claimed that while BJP leaders were left untouched, the government had launched a full-scale eviction drive against the “poor and uninfluential”, creating massive resentment amongst the common masses.
“Selective action against the poor, indigent and homeless people to the exclusion of the privileged class of saffron brigade was not only reprehensible but amounted to a sin of the highest order,” he said.
He called upon the Lt Governor to issue a written order to stop demolition proceedings against the poor and other homeless people.
Reports of protests by people were also received from various district headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir.
Claiming that there is no transparency in the ongoing eviction drive, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday urged the J-K administration to issue clear orders on its assurance that ordinary shopkeepers will not be evicted.
“There is no transparency in the eviction drive. We are not here to defend the land mafia but there should be clarity on who is an encroacher,” KCCI president Sheikh Aashiq told reporters here.
He said many people have valid revenue documents but have been listed as encroachers.
“The government should resolve the problem. People who had valid lease documents till few days ago are now illegal occupants. There is chaos and confusion about the whole issue,” he said.
On the sealing and subsequent reopening of shops in Lal Chowk on Wednesday, Aashiq said the administration has assured the chamber that shopkeepers would not be affected.
“We have been assured that shopkeepers will not be affected. We request the LG administration to issue transparent orders about it,” he added.
Jammu and Kashmir BJP leader Altaf Thakur on Thursday said “Baba ka bulldozer” will remove encroachments by influential people on government land but will not bother poor people, even as J-K Kissan Tehreek held a protest here against the eviction drive..
“Baba ka Bulldozer will do its job, be it against Ali Mohammad Sagar (National Conference general secretary), Farooq Abdullah (former chief minister) or Muzaffar Shah (Awami National Conference vice president). The LG has made it clear that ordinary people will not be touched. Only the influential land grabbers will be targeted,” Thakur told PTI.
He was responding to criticism of the eviction drive from political parties that the BJP was engaging in “personal vendetta”.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s second term saw bulldozers demolishing properties of alleged criminals and people involved in riots, earning the CM the sobriquet of “Baba Bulldozer”. Now, the term “Baba ka bulldozer” is usually used by BJP leaders across the country to refer to the action against encroachments.
“What’s wrong is wrong. During the militancy period, people associated with Hurriyat Conference had grabbed lands. Even today, illegal construction of Qazi Yasir was demolished in Anantnag. Hurriyat people have grabbed lands wherever they could,” Thakur said.
Thakur said the sealing of the shops at Lal Chowk on Wednesday was done as they had been constructed on land forcibly taken from one Gadda Singh.
“That land belongs to one Gadda Singh…it has been forcibly taken from him. Lands illegally occupied have to be retrieved on priority,” he added.
However, authorities on Thursday morning removed the seals of the two dozen shops after it came to light that Srinagar Municipal Corporation had been collecting rent from the shopkeepers for four decades now.
Thakur said the eviction drive was being carried out on court orders and the J-K administration is only implementing it.
“During the 30 years of militancy, the influential people have grabbed government land. People from NC and PDP have been involved in it. They have grabbed lands which should have been used for making hospitals, hotels and playgrounds,” he said.
Thakur also hit out at PDP president Mehbooba Mufti saying she always spoke against the army and police “because she has pinned her hopes on China…this kind of talk is anti-national”.
“If she had to highlight any institutional land grab, she should have raised Nawa-e-Subah (NC headquarters) or Khidmat Trust (owned by Congress ),” he said..
Meanwhile, activists of Jammu and Kashmir Kissan Tehreek led by its general secretary Zahoor Ahmad held a protest against the government’s demolition drive.
“The government had promised acche din’ and now they are destroying our humble dwellings. They had promised to give livelihood to people but are snatching the same by demolishing the shops. Is this what they had promised?” he said.
“We appeal to the people to come out and protest peacefully so that our voice awakens the government. Protesting peacefully is our right as we live in a democratic country,” he added.