At least two dozen persons including the vice-chairman of Jammu Development Authority and a police officer were injured during violent protests against an anti-encroachment drive launched by the JDA here Saturday.
A witness said a joint team of JDA officials, Jammu and Kashmir police and Central Reserve Police Force reached Nikki Tawi area, Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu at around 7 am.
"As the police contingent approached the area with a JCB and other machines to demolish the alleged illegal structures, the locals, mostly Gujjars, assembled on the Belicharana road and burnt tyres to lodge their protest against the authorities," he said.
In order to disperse the agitating protesters, the witness said, the police fired tear-gas shells and baton charged some locals, who in turn pelted the police party and JDA officials with stones, forcing them move back.
In the attack, around two dozen persons including the vice-chairman JDA, P S Rathore, station house officer Bakshi Nagar police station Naresh Sharma and a web journalist Shiv Dev Singh were injured.
The injured undergoing treatment at government medical college and hospital (GMC&H) Jammu are: Inspector Naresh Sharma (38) son of Mohan Lal Sharma of Wazir Lane, TallabTillo, Jammu; head constable Surinder Singh (46) son of Sansar Singh of PattaBohri, Jammu; selection grade constable VikasVed (42) son of BholaNath of Rajouri; selection grade constable GhulamHussain (50) son of Ghulam Ali of Kishtwar; constable Shalim Gupta (30) son of Sudesh Gupta of Udhampur; constable Ramesh Kumar (28) son of Rattan Lal of Akhnoor, Om Parkash (28) son of Munna Ram of Shakti Nagar, Jammu; Himat Kumar (25) son of Om Parkash of R S Pura, journalist of Jammu Bharat web portal, Shivdev Singh (53) son of Mohinder Singh of Samba, Farman Ali (42) son of Noor Hussain of Badheri, Samba and Rajinder (50) son of late Amarnath of Gandhi Nagar.
While accusing the JDA of being selective, the protestors said they should have been intimated before the demolition drive.
"Where were the JDA officials when we were raising the structures? Today, when we have spent lakhs of rupees on our structures, they are out to bulldoze them," said a protesting woman.
"Before razing our structures, they have to demolish illegal structures raised by former ministers and MLAs on state land. Why are these drives selective?"
A local Gujjar leader, ChoudharyNazakat Ali Khatana claimed that the structures raised adjacent to fourth bridge at Nikki Tawi area were "not illegal".
He said the locals have electricity and water connections and they are paying the government all kinds of taxes.
"We also have the ration cards and Aadhar cards," he said, adding that the JDA drive was launched "only to harass Muslims".
Director land management, JDA, Devinder Singh Katoch, however said the "encroachers" are being issued notices every month.
"We have directions from the high court to remove all the illegal settlements around Tawi River from Nagrota to FallainMandal. We are issuing notices to the encroachers through print and electronic media every month, but every time we try to remove their structures, they pelt stones on our teams," he said.
Earlier, in July this year, a division bench of state high court comprising justice TashiRabstan and justice Sanjay Kumar Gupta directed the divisional commissioner Jammu to ensure removal of illegal constructions near bed of river Tawi and complete ban on extraction of minerals.
On December 4, a division bench of the high court comprising chief justice Gita Mittal and justice TashiRabstan had warned of initiating contempt proceedings against all the authorities concerned "as the court appointed committee has pointed out that directions regarding removal of encroachments and illegal constructions in and around Tawi river from Nagrota to PhallianMandal have not been complied with."
The protests were called off after SDPO south, DrSunniyaAshkhoorWani, along with other officers talked to the senior citizens of the area and sought their help in stopping the youth from taking law in their hands.