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The land was later further expanded by its present occupants – the Indian Army.

Given such precedence Pandit’s fight has just started.

Even in prime locations in Srinagar the rent payment is negligible. Mushtaq Lone, who owns a large house in Karan Nagar has been going from pillar to post to get his house vacated by the CRPF, who occupied it in 1990. “I have been continuously fighting for the restoration of my property but till date the CRPF refuses to leave the building” said a distraught Lone. The troopers pay a meagre rent for the building which Lone says is negligible.

“Just Rs 3300 for the property worth two crore rupees, this is a crude joke with us” said Lone. “I am continuously losing lakhs of rupees per years in terms of revenue lost.”

Ironic answers

In their bid to keep hold of their occupied properties, the security agencies usually reply that they can move out if an alternate location is identified.

Whenever Lone confronts the officials for the recovery of his property they tell him that as there is no other accommodation available so they can’t move out. “At some times they ask me to locate any house or other property as a replacement,” said Lone.

Similar answer is also being given to Pandits, who feel aghast at such a proposition. The question arises, “is there sincerity in their claims,” which locals never trust.

The state government once burnt its fingers by a similar answer from army when it asked them to leave the Tatoo Ground in Srinagar. The state handed over a huge karewa to the security forces in lieu of returning the Tatoo ground. The army ended up occupying both and left the government helplessly fuming.

The karewas due to their prime and strategic locations are favourite of security agencies. Most of the karewa, which were safe ground for population in case of floods, are under their occupation.

While taking up the issue with then defence minister in 2006, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti had remarked, “The fact is that if a major flood hits Kashmir, we do not have enough safe places to take refuge because most of the safe plateaus have taken over by the army. When you take the prime land you are actually adding to the unemployment load”.

Continuous Loss

Hundreds of thousands of acres of high yielding agricultural and horticulture land continues to be under occupation and outside the realm of cropping. “This time our fresh and dry fruit production should have been around 25 lakh metric tons but at present it is around 12 to 15 lakhs only due to this occupation,” said President, Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association, Ghulam Rasool Bhat.

Bhat said the land and orchards under the occupation of troopers is devastated. “The adjacent land has also been damaged as they could not be attended owing to fear of the troops. They are a persistent danger not only to our sustenance but also to our lives and honour,” he said.

A number of industrial units are also under occupation of troops which have added to the recurrent losses.

President Federation Chamber of Industries and Kashmir Shakeel Qallander says that around 200 industrial units are under occupation of security forces, which has inflicted heavy loss on our entrepreneurs. “Annually we are losing Rs 200 crores of business turnover and 1000 jobs,” says Qallander. “If we add the losses for the last 20 years it is a huge amount.”

Qallander says that the occupation of industrial units has hampered the setting up of new units. “At least 200 more units could have been established in the absence of their occupation” said Qallander.

At some places like Kulgam, Sumbal and Shopian, security agencies have occupied entire industrial estates. In Bijbehera, they have occupied an entire sports complex. There is also partial occupation of industrial estates in Lassipora, Zakura, Zainakot, Sopore and Baramulla.

Scattered around in rented buildings Srinagar and Baramulla, as Pandits literally beg with troopers to let them offer prayers at the grave of Mohiudin Pandit, they feel too helpless. No matter if New Delhi can offer a full protocol to their cousin Farah Pandit, the US special representative to Muslim world, the world changes in Kashmir.

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