Land Grab: The Latest Forest Document

Irrigation and PHE Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din is at the receiving end of an apparently unending controversy over the alleged land grab in south Kashmir forests. The latest communication that is fueling the fire was an internal memo of the forest department that it had submitted to the house committee that was initiated to probe but was later withdrawn. On the forest land controversy, this is the latest official communication. Here it is:

Office of the Divisional Forest Officer Forest Division Shopian.

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests,
Jammu & Kashmir Govt.,
Jammu.

No: DFO/Spn/2241-43/2                                                   Date: 09-11 -2012

Sub: – Alleged occupation of Forest Land in Village Sedow, Tehsil and District Shopian-observations of the House Committee thereof.

Ref:  Your Office letter No. PCCF/L/HC/Meeting/ 2012/2407-9

dated: 07-11-2012.

Sir,

Relevant to above captioned subject & reference, the brief report is submitted as under:-

The demarcated Forests of Sedow spreading over an area of around 1349 Hectares represented by Compartments Viz, V-3, V-4a, V-4b, “V-4c”, V-51, V-5b (Sedow Block) and V-2a &V-2b (Chotipora Block), have suffered due to encroachment during last two decades. Sedow village comprising of 797 Chowals with population of around 6000 souls have periodic demarcation of the area could not be taken up since last two decades due to the turmoil, and as a result the boundary pillars do not exist on ground due to which the demarcation records of the Division could not be updated.

Propriety-Occupancy status of the Land in Question:-
No records prior 1995 pertaining to the subject are available owing to the fact that all the records of the Division and the Range were gutted in the incidental fire during aftermath of Charief-Sharief episode in 1995 for which proper FIR vide No. 51 of 12-05-1995 stands lodged in police station Shopian.

Forest Departments stand vis-?-vis the Land in Question, his Claim thereon and steps taken by him to defend his Claim:

In the year 2007, Assistant Commissioner Shopian vide No. 285/DCS/SQ dated: 06-08-2007 (copy not available) had approached this office for furnishing of NOC of the Land Case of Chowdri Taj Mohi-ud-din S/o Brid Khuda Bakish R/o Batamaloo (land in Sedow) attributed to Roshni Act. This office vide no. 687/ Roshni Case dated: 21-05-08 (photocopy enclosed as Annexure-I) returned the case with the observation, “that the land attributed to Roshni Act is purely Forest Land because of the fact Coniferous green Crop exist on ground”.

Again in year 2011 the Superintend of police, Vigilance Organization Kashmir, Srinagar vide no. SP (ABP)/11/PE-226 dated: 12-02-2011 and NO. SP (ABP) 10-AW-301 dated: 26-02-2022 (photo copies enclosed as Annexure-II &III), approached this office for knowing the status of the land in Question. The queries were replied vide this Office No. DFO/Spn/504/Acctts dated: 17-02-2011 and DFO/Spn/1195/L dated: 28-02-2011 (photocopies enclosed as Annexure- IV &V).

In both the communications this office although admitted that forest land has been encroached, however quantum of land encroached was not predicted due to the lack of proper demarcation of the area. In order to know the quantum of land encroached, DFO Demarcation Division Srinagar was approached who deputed his range officer concerned for delineation of the land in question. DFO demarcation vide no. DEM/L/2011/261-65 dated: 28-05-2011submitted a report (photocopy enclosed as Annexure- VI), therein stressing the territorial staff to ascertain the status of the land in question by themselves after furnishing the rough sketch map and Geo-references of the site in question (photocopy enclosed as Annexure- VII &VIII). However the territorial staff could not still ascertain the quantum of land encroached as the permanent demarcation pillars were not fixed on site.

Furthermore, the staff accompanying the demarcation party including B.O. & Beat Guard got transferred and temporary marks shown on ground could not last long and vanished soon. More so, the revenue authorities created a confusion in the mind set of staff by declaring the land in question as State land ( the photocopy of Tehsildars Report and revenue extract enclosed as Annexure- IX & X). It is worthwhile to mention here that the land in question which was earlier fenced by Barbed Wire was now replaced by Chain Link Fencing and therefore the area was kept out of bounds of territorial staff after June, 2011.

The site in question presently under occupation of Chowdri Taj Mohi-ud-din S/o Brid Khuda Bakish R/o Batamaloo is surrounded by propriety lands of the locals on the right flank and forest compartment no: V-4c on the upper side & on the left flank. The site in question is guarded by 2100 rfts of Chain Link Fencing having 60-70 Nos of Coniferous trees and around 200-300 Apple plants and two structures constructed on it.

Status of encroachment of Sedow Forests:-

As has been reported in the beginning of this letter that Sedow Forests comprise of eight compartments with recorded area of 1349 Hectares. Since no demarcation pillars exists at present in any of these compartments and to know the actual encroachment of forests in these compartments demarcation pillars have to be fixed as per demarcation records which is a time consuming job. The quantum of illegally occupied land by individuals including that of in question land can be established only after fixing the demarcation pillars which shall require assistance of district administration, police & Revenue authorities. For this purpose u/sd. May be provided a feasible time limit to accomplish the job.

Yours faithfully,

                                                                                                                         DFO SHOPIAN
FOREST DIVISION SHOPIAN                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Copy submitted to the:

Chief Conservator of Forests, Kashmir Srinagar for information and n/a
Conservator of Forests South Circle Bijbehara for information & n/a.

DFO: SHOPIAN FOREST DIVISION

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