In a bid to restore the pristine glory of tourist resort Sonamarag, the authorities Wednesday launched a massive operation against violators and demolished scores of illegal structures at Sonamarg and its adjacent areas including Gadibal following reports of gross violation of Master plan in this central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
Reports said that Sonamarag Development Authority officials led by its Chief Executive 0fficer, Zulfikar Muhammad Khan, assisted by police personnel appeared in Sonamarag during morning hours and razed the unauthorized structures to ground. Despite facing stiff resistance from some locals, the SDA and demolishing team did not stop and dismantled all the illegal structures.
An SDA official told CNS that several illegal structures had come up in the area which were dismantled on Wednesday. The official said that a large contingent of police was deployed in Sonamarg to maintain law and order and to thwart resistance from vested interests. Sources said that the road leading to this summer resort was blocked by police using barricades to restrict the movement of people towards Sonamarg for hours.
However, locals alleged that all the big fish were spared and only the structures of minnows were razed to ground.
Local Sarpanch Nazir Ahmad Sheikh said that some influential persons with political backing have raised illegal structures on the state land in Sonamarg including Gadkul, Lashpather, Sarbal and Gadibal without having BOKA permission.
The Sarpanch alleged that main violators who have constructed hotels on state land were spared and no action against them was initiated. “One fails to understand why their hotels were not demolished,” questioned Nazir.
Another local, Abdul Ahad Sheikh whose shop was demolished at Gadibal said that he had constructed his shop in the year 2003 when Sonamarg Development Authority did not exist. He said that despite constructing shop on his own land, SDA in a bid to mislead authorities dismantled his shop without any legal justification. Sheikh alleged that the structures of main violators were spared and those of poor were demolished.
Locals held protest demonstration against SDA for not demolishing the illegal structures of the persons having political backing. The protestors accused SDA of having unholy nexus with the big fish who according to them are the biggest violators. “Why poor is always targeted and why no action is taken against well-to-do and influential people,” the protestors said.
The locals threatened that if all the illegal structures were not demolished within two days they will raise their structures again and will intensify protest against SDA for sparing influential people.
“Chief Executive Officer, SDA should approach us and we will show him who are the main violators and who have turned Sonamarg into a concrete Jungal,” said Mushtaq Ahmad.