Dozens of residents in tourist resort Sonamarg here held protests against the army for “illegally occupying their 200 kanals of land”, witnesses said.

They told GNS that the men, children and women took to streets in Sonamarg on Wednesday morning and blocked roads demanding end to the land occupation by army.  The shops and other commercial establishments in the area were also closed, they said.

Amid massive sloganeering, the protesters demanded an end to “army’s occupation of their land” on which they cultivate potatoes as well as there is a truckyard, an official said.

Local Sarpanch Nazir Ahmad accused army of “grabbing their land” and said: “They grabbed our land. Even though we approached several officials including Divisional Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner but no one turned up…they (army) are building huts and they have been fencing this land since last November. Now, we have been forced to come out on streets.”

A senior revenue official said that the land belongs to people and the army has removed the bunker which they had built over the land. “We went there and we have now asked people to cultivate the potatoes on their land. The truckyard has also been freed,” he said, adding: “this is a high level matter as there is army’s involvement.”

“The DC Ganderbal would himself visit the spot and would sort out the matter with army in coming days,” he added.

Meanwhile, a defence official accused locals of encroaching army’s land. “This land belongs to the army. Contrary to the claims, it is the civilians who have encroached the land and the army has called for joint survey (sic). He said in the past the civil administration used to approach army requesting them to allow the locals to use the land. “But this time they have not done this,” he added.


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