Srinagar: After Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the progress of the anti-encroachment drive at a high-level meeting with J&K Lt. Governor in New Delhi, there is a perceptible difference on ground in the approach of the officials engaged with the task.
Highly placed sources told IANS that the home minister has taken a serious exception to the impression carried on the ground regarding the intention of the anti-encroachment drive.
Since the beginning of the drive a general impression was being carried that all is grist that comes to the mill.
The poorest of the poor were being treated at par with the rich and powerful by the officials engaged in the drive.
There seemed to be no difference in the official approach whether the encroacher was a bare survivor or a wealthy individual furthering his estate through occupation of grazing or the state land.
"If you occupied 10 marlas of either Kahcharie land or the state land irrespective of whether or not your entire survival depended on that piece of land, you would come under the shovel of the bulldozer.
"After Amit Shah intervened, the official approach towards demolitions appears to have changed," said a poor villager who lives in a house constructed over state land in Budgam district.
The verbal assurances by the Lt Governor and his team of officials that those living in residential houses constructed over very small pieces of state or grazing land would not be touched, have still not been translated into an official order.
Yet, it is now known that clear orders have been conveyed to the anti-encroachment squads to ensure that no poor dweller is deprived of his home.
"If you have a very small piece of state or grazing land on which you have built a residential house and if you do not own any other land except the small piece occupied by you and your family, you won't be touched," IANS was told by the highly placed sources.
The same source clarified that if you have built a residential house on an encroached piece of state or grazing land while you still own proprietary land, then you won't be protected during the anti-encroachment drive.
At the same time, it has been made clear by the Union home minister during the course of his meeting with the J&K L-G and senior officers that the drive against influential and rich people who made illegal occupation of state land their choice pastime during the last many decades, shall continue without any hiccup, sources said.
Another grievance highlighted during the beginning of the anti-encroachment drive had been the arrival of the official demolition squads without serving a notice to the affected parties.
"There are clear instructions that the encroacher should be served a legal notice and also be given reasonable time to present his case before the authorities move ahead with the demolition," sources added.
After these clarifications, there should be no doubt in the mind of the poor that their dwellings would be protected and in the mind of the rich and mighty that they would have to part with the encroached lands.