‘Selective’ land evacuation drive leaves Jammu Muslims high and dry

The present coalition regime’s drive to get the government land evacuated in selected areas here has created fear and insecurity among the Muslim community.
‘Selective’ land evacuation drive leaves Jammu Muslims high and dry
Representational Pic

The present coalition regime's drive to get the government land evacuated in selected areas here has created fear and insecurity among the Muslim community. 

"Soon after the former Forest Minister Bali Baghat took the charge in 2015, he directed his department to get the government land evacuated," said a resident.     

He said the drive to get the government land evacuated was started from Siddrah, Bhatindi and Sunjwani—the Muslim dominated areas of Jammu province. Muslims from Pir Panchal, Chenab Valley and a few areas of Kashmir have constructed their houses in these colonies and have been living here for years together.

On February 24 this year, a 22-year old youth, Muhammad Yaqoob, died and six others sustained injuries when police opened fire to disperse locals who tried to resist the move of the government authorities to get a Gujjar locality evacuated near Bari Brahmana on Jammu outskirts. After the incident, it was revealed that the Gujjar basti was targeted at the behest of a local BJP MLA, who also happens to be a minister in the present coalition.          

Soon after the Bari Brahmana incident, the incumbent Forest Minister Chaudary Lal Singh stirred the hornet's nest by referring to mass killings of Muslims in 1947. His statement created ripples in the political circles and added to the prevailing sense of insecurity among the Jammu Muslims.    

On September 12 this year, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh while chairing a high level meet to discuss the modalities for early demarcation and handing over of land by Revenue department to Jammu Development Authority, said: "There is an immediate need to start anti-encroachment drives for retrieval of encroached land at village Sidhra, Majeen and Rangoora which has been occupied illegally by private players for their vested interests."

He also directed the officers to speed up the process of land acquisition at Gole Gujral, Kot Bhalwal, Roop Nagar extension and Birpur for establishment of upcoming colonies at these sites. 

He directed Deputy Commissioner Jammu to hand over 1000 kanal land at village Deeli and 226 Kanal at Kot Bhalwal to the JDA while ensuring stringent action against "land grabbers" and "local miscreants."

Sources said Siddrah, Majeen and Rangoora were declared as satellite townships 30 years ago. However, maximum people of these areas refused to sell their land to the government at the rates fixed by it. In these areas, thousands of kanals of land were allotted for constructing Batra hospital, IMPA and Golf Coure, but rest of the land is still under the possession of landlords, nomads and other people. Residents of these areas  have turned their pieces of lands into plots and sold them off.

Many people from Doda, Kishtwar, Baderwah and Kashmir have constructed their houses in these areas. "Since the day the PDP-BJP government has taken over the reins of the state, we are feeling insecure and threatened. It seems their only mission is to dislocate the Muslims who are residing in these areas," said Abrar Khan, who stays near Siddrah.

The Deputy Chief Minister during the meeting asked the officials to pay attention towards Gool Gujaral and Kot Balwal, which are ancient Gujjar habitations. These areas were spread in thousands of kanals of land but now have got confined to a few hundred kanals.

Sources said that on the directions of the Deputy Chief Minister, the JDA is trying to "set the records straight to ensure that government is able to defend the cases if people move the court to save their properties."

The Vice-Chairman Jammu Development Authority (JDA) Mubarak Singh while talking to Greater Kashmir said: "We have already started the process to retrieve the encroached land by taking the Revenue department along, as per the directions of the Deputy Chief Minister." 

He said, "Whatever steps are required to be taken to retrieve the encroached land would be taken as per law."

Despite repeated attempts Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh could not be contacted for his comments.      

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