Jammu, Jan 30: Massive protests erupted on Sunjwan-Bathindi road where hundreds of people including women came out to protest against the eviction notices served to the six state land occupants in Sunjwan and Malik Market area.
To express the anguish against the authorities, the business community also closed their shops across Bathindi, Sunjwan and Malik Market while holding a peaceful protest demonstration on Bathindi-Sunjwan road.
Later the SDM South along with other officials reached the spot.
“The SDM had come. He assured the protesters that he will ensure a meeting with the DC Jammu,” one of the protesters informed. However, the protests continued and they also expressed disagreement to the repeated assurances of Member Parliament and BJP leader, Ghulam Ali Khatana.
“No notice has been issued to the residential structure. But the notices have been issued to commercial structures only,” Khatana said, while trying to convince the protesters who had gathered around him and wanted assurance from him that no residential structure will be “evicted / razed.”
To this, he repeated: “Poor people will not be harassed.” He, however, said the matter was before the high court.
A revenue official told Greater Kashmir that: “We have served six notices in Sunjwan and Malik Market area. These notices were served to Sadiq Malik (occupant including commercial land in several kanals near Sunjwan mini-bus stand), Rashid Malik (3 kanals state land including residential), and politician for three kanals for commercial use of state land in Sunjwan.”
Similarly, the revenue official said that: “Two notices in Channi Rama area i.e., two showroom owners and another to a commercial structure occupant (an engineer).”
When contacted, SDM South, Abhishek said: “At least six notices (for retrieval of state land) have been issued by the concerned tehsildar. Within a seven days notice period, they (illegal occupant of state land) will have the opportunity to represent themselves before the concerned authorities.”
He further said that “Some people wished to submit a memorandum and the same will be forwarded to the District Magistrate, Jammu.”
“Families are unnerved. Most affected are women and children who are in depression and spending sleepless nights,” said a woman protester, who did not disclose her name.
She said: “We are from a poor family. We have constructed a house on 1 kanals of land after purchasing it from the hard earned money. The government can regularize the residential colonies. They have already regularized many illegal colonies in Jammu. Why can't Sunjwan, Bathindi, Malik Market and Channi Rama? We are ready to pay if charges are fixed. We have no other house in J&K.”
Meanwhile, a prominent social activist from Bathindi, Choudhary Shabir Kohli told Greater Kashmir that: “Rashid Malik on Sunjwan road and Sadiq Malik (building material at Sunjwan mini-bus stand) have received notices.”
Following the notices, he said that “Thousands of families have been worried about their future. They are in constant fear. They are unable to understand where to go in case their shelters are snatched.”
Meanwhile, family members of Sadiq Malik and Rashid Malik claimed that they settled in Sunjwan in 1947 after leaving their ancestral land in RS Pura (Jammu district) during partition of India-Pakistan.
They alleged that the authorities have adopted two yardsticks.
“Maliks, Schedule Castes, Bhramanas and Gujjars settled in Sunjwan/Bathindi in 1947. Therefore, the government should reconsider its decision and regularize the colonies. Evicting thousands of people would become humanitarian crises for thousands of families including women and children.”
“I have received a notice even though I have a residential house,” said one of the protesters who received notice. However, a revenue official who was present at the protest site said that the residential houses will not be touched.