Tribal Muslims selectively targeted in Jammu: Mehbooba

The Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday cautioned the governor’s administration against what she called “selective targeting” of tribal Muslims in Jammu, saying it will have a “serious fallout” across the state.
Tribal Muslims selectively targeted in Jammu: Mehbooba
Photo: Aman Farooq/ GK

The Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday cautioned the governor's administration against what she called "selective targeting" of tribal Muslims in Jammu, saying it will have a "serious fallout" across the state. Addressing a news conference here, the former chief minister said: "I met the governor recently and he gave me an assurance that nobody will touch Gujjars and Bakerwals, particularly during this winter. But unfortunately, right under the nose of the governor, there is selective targeting of Gujjars and Bakerwals and other Muslims groups going on in Jammu, on the pretext of an anti-encroachment drive".

Mehbooba said this "selective targeting of tribal communities" started soon after the fall of her government in June last year. 

"That time", Mehbooba said, "33 nomadic families were given notices to leave their houses. And in December last year, families of Gujjars and Bakerwals were forced out of their homes in chilling winter".  

"Muslims in Jammu have become vulnerable. They are being thrown out of their houses and targeted under a selective anti-encroachment drive. Despite an assurance from the governor, nothing has improved," she said.

Asked if any party was behind this, Mehbooba said: "There are forces which played their role in the Rasana (rape and murder case) to scare away Muslims and force them out of Jammu. Such forces are there".

She cautioned that if the governor's administration doesn't take a note of "this fragile situation," it will "have serious repercussions not only in Jammu but Kashmir as well. The situation can go out of control".

The PDP chief said one of the reasons for her party to shake hands with the BJP in 2015 was to "ensure protection to tribal communities in Jammu". 

She said her government had "created a separate tribal ministry for protection of Gujjars and Bakerwals and other marginalised people".

"We had tried to bring in a Forest Act to ensure complete ban on removal of tribal people from the forestland. They were being disrespected. I had even passed an order that till the time the Act is brought in force, nobody should touch them. We were hopeful that the governor's administration will continue with this arrangement, but unfortunately these people are being suppressed again now," Mehbooba said.

The tribal communities, Mehbooba said, were also made to suffer on the pretext of bovine smuggling. 

She said the areas where Muslims live in Jammu were brought under municipal limits to "harass" them and prevent them from carrying out construction of residential houses. 

"Now, Muslims of Jammu are threatened of a repeat of 1947," she said.

To a question, the PDP president said some "fanatic groups like IkkJutt Jammu MahaAdhiveshan (The Save Jammu Crusade) are behind targeting of these families from tribal communities".

"A communally motivated campaign is being organised that reportedly talks about dangers posed to the people of Jammu from growth of Muslim colonies in and around the winter capital, and how it is a concerted effort to change its demography. These are reflective of the mindset of the perpetrators of such bigotry," she said.

Gujjars and Bakerwals have been living in Jammu prior to 1947, she said.

"They have a long history in Jammu".

To a question that BJP's national general secretary Ram Madhav Sunday demanded a divisional status for Ladakh, Mehbooba reiterated her demand that far-flung PirPanjal and Chenab Valley should also been given separate divisions. 

"Paharis-speaking people should get reservation," she responded to another question.

Mehbooba said her party, which is facing disintegration amid ongoing rebellion, was ready for the assembly polls. 

"We are ready for elections any time," she said, in reply to a query.  

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