People are questioning the assurances of Lt Governor Manoj Sinha that “only influential and powerful people who misused their position and violated the law to encroach upon the state land” would face action, saying common people are also being targeted by the anti-encroachment authorities.
Intensifying its operations to retrieve the encroached government land in Srinagar, the authorities on Saturday held multiple drives claiming that the land illegally occupied by “influential persons” was retrieved at many places.
However, during an anti-encroachment drive at Padshahibagh Mehjoor Nagar in Srinagar on Saturday, the people alleged that the authorities are targetting their “proprietary land despite genuine documents”. Many also alleged that they were not even served notice or given any information about the eviction.
“We have been doing business on this land for years. We have bank liabilities. Are we land grabbers? It is just a few marlas of land. Why is the government after the poor people,” one of the targeted families told the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO).
The women present at the site said, “Other than that patch of land, we have nothing. Snatching it will push us to poverty.”
“The fencing wall of our land has been demolished. We have papers of this land registered way back in 1972, but without checking anything they demolished the wall. Why did they run away now; let them prove our property is illegal,” said another family.
Notably, various political parties have been echoing that the poor be spared in the drive, while the authorities are stating that the move is “pro-people”. In a meeting on Thursday, the Chief Secretary directed the deputy commissioners (DCs) to safeguard the habitations and livelihoods of the poor and downtrodden.
The anti-encroachment drives are being carried out by the teams established by the district magistrates of various areas of the valley.
In a claim that their properties were on state land, the authorities demolished a series of properties, boundary walls, and fencings belonging to many politicians, those in service, and retired bureaucrats.
The boundary wall and guard house of the National Conference General Secretary and former minister Ali Mohammad Sagar at Humhama near the Srinagar airport were also demolished.
Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) president Sajad Lone in a letter to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha urged him to issue a formal order for the poor and marginalised communities so they can be differentiated against those who are involved in a land grab.
The Supreme Court of India also refused to stay the move as it was hearing a petition against the order issued by the J&K administration.
Meanwhile, Democratic Azad Party (DAP) chief Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday demanded a formal order from the Raj Bhavan to spare the poor in the ongoing anti-encroachment drive.
The Jammu and Kashmir government faced criticism after issuing an order on January 9 ordering all district officials to remove all encroachments on public land by January 31, 2023. In the midst of growing concerns over ‘dispossession,’ there have been numerous protests.
Meanwhile, KNO tried to reach out to the concerned officials for their comments on the allegations by the people at Padshahibagh; however, there was no response to the repeated calls and messages—(KNO)