Civil Society Opposes Firing Range in Bajpathri

KL NEWS NETWORK

SRINAGAR

Terming the Army’s proposal as a recipe for environmental catastrophe, Save Yusmarg Movement (SYM) resolved to prevent the setting up of the Field Firing Range in any part of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to a statement issued to KNS, a public meeting was held at Townhall, Chrari Sharief on Friday to discuss the issue which was attended by prominent citizens including the representatives of local trade bodies and Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS).

Speaking in the meeting, Asim Assadi, SYM Convenor, said his group will prepare a white paper on consequences of having a Field Firing Range for the Army in Bajpathri-Yusmarg which is going to affect not only the people living in its vicinity but the entire Jammu and Kashmir.

“The proposal is a clear infringement on the fundamental rights of the citizens. We will prepare a white paper on the issue, expand the scope of deliberations, given its social, political and economic ramifications, and join hands with stakeholders to evolve a strong platform which will be an effective way of putting pressure on the government,” he said.

Asim said the Government of India, under “Make in India” policy, has recently proposed to lease out field firing ranges to private players for testing their armoury. “We will not allow the Army, which operates 12 out of 51 firing ranges in J&K, to use our resources of sustenance for military vandalism anymore,” he said.

Prominent industry leader and KCSDS member, Shakeel Qalandar, said the silence of the state government and the recent remarks by a senior Army officer point towards “complicity of the authorities”, while calling for mass awareness campaigns, especially in areas of Bajpathri-Yusmarg, on the issue.

“The artillery drills will not only inject deadly chemicals into the drinking water systems of Pulwama, Budgam, Shopian and Srinagar districts of J&K, thereby putting generations of people at risk, but it will also mean uprooting of hundreds of families from their traditional lands,” Qalandar said.

He said the KCSDS will soon hold a round table meeting in Srinagar wherein trade and lawyer bodies, rights groups, environmental activists and other members of civil society will be involved to Work out a joint strategy on the issue.

Retired engineer and SYM member, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, said the human intrusion into the fragile ecosystem of forests leads to increasing man-animal conflicts, “The firing range will put further pressure on the forest’s ecosystem and also deprive livelihood to thousands of pastoral families who depend on these traditional grazing lands for sustenance,” he said.

SYM said the Army must be categorically told to stop exploiting the land of J&K for military adventures, “We will use all remedies, including the courts, to stop the state government from signing the lease deed with the union government and thereby prevent this environmental disaster from wreaking havoc on the people of our state,” minutes of the meeting read.

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