SRINAGAR: The Gujjar and Bakerwal community on Friday again staged protests in various districts of the Jammu division against the demolition drive carried out by Jammu Development Authority in Roop Nagar. As many as 17 structures were demolished.
“Jammu Development Authority today retrieved its 41 Kanal Prime land here in Roop Nagar. Anti-encroachment drive was jointly launched by the District Administration, Police & JDA at Sector-06 Roop Nagar, Tehsil Jammu North and the encroached land falling under khasra No. 1193 and 1206 was retrieved during 5 hour long anti-encroachment drive (sic),” the handout states.
The demolition drive sparked protests. Scores of people hit the roads and raised slogans against the JDA.
According to reports, people after performing Friday prayers assembled in front of Markazi Jamia Masjid in Rajouri and took out a protest rally that concluded at Gujjar Mandi.
The protesters demanded action against the JDA officials while shouting slogans against the alleged selective approach.
They said that the people were targeted even after assurance that the Gujjars and Bakkerwals would be provided support by the government.
The protestors while warning of more such protests in days to come demanded that all the homeless families should be given proper shelters and be rehabilitated at the earliest.
In videos of the drive that have gone viral on social media, Gujjar Bakerwal women can be seen wailing and pleading with the officers to spare the houses.
According to locals, several members of the Scheduled Tribe community have been living in the locality for decades, mostly before 1947. Like other Gujjar-Bakerwals of J&K, they depend on selling milk and other dairy products.
The demolition drive has triggered widespread anger across J&K, with former CM Mehbooba Mufti saying, “J&K admin’s selective demolition of houses in Jammu & rendering tribals homeless is yet another method to vent their hatred by targeting minorities.”
She added that these “communal” policy decisions are sanctioned at the top and that the people need to stand up against such “atrocities”.
J&K admin’s selective demolition of houses in Jammu & rendering tribals homeless is yet another method to vent their hatred by targeting minorities. Seemingly these communal policy decisions are sanctioned at the top. People need to stand up against such atrocities. https://t.co/YRA7EQ2QS8
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) January 12, 2022
National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah on Friday accused the administration of targeting the Gujjar and Bakarwal tribals at the behest of its political masters.
“The government has been selective in its demolition drive, targeting only Gujjar Bakarwal families in Jammu. The presence of these families has always irked the BJP & clearly the administration is targeting the Gujjars & Bakarwals at the behest of their political masters,” Omar tweeted.
The government has been selective in its demolition drive, targeting only Gujjar Bakarwal families in Jammu. The presence of these families has always irked the BJP & clearly the administration is targeting the Gujjars & Bakarwals at the behest of their political masters. https://t.co/gYGxjophPl
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) January 14, 2022
Meanwhile, NC’s Member of Parliament Hasnain Masoodi, decried “selective” demolition by the JDA and administration of houses of Scheduled Tribe community in Roop Nagar and other areas of Jammu leaving scores of families including women and children shelterless in harsh winter.
“The demolition operation has been apparently carried out unmindful of the possessory and other rights of the victims in possession of the residential sites for decades and in gross violation of law,” Masoodi said in a statement.
He said it was shocking that while the party in power at the Centre boasts of having in 2020 regularised 1,731 illegal colonies in Delhi under PM-UDAY and claimed to have set up an efficient and hassle-free mechanism of providing ownership papers to thousands of beneficiaries, the Jammu and Kashmir administration “orders selective demolition when it comes to ST population of J-K”.
In Delhi, the DDA and other authorities show no zeal to retrieve land worth billions of rupees from the encroachers and take steps to regularise their possession and confer ownership rights on them, but when it comes to J-K, the JDA takes pride in retrieving land worth a few crore rupees from deprived segments of society at the cost of lives of the people who because of various reasons stand at the end of the queue, he said.
Masoodi said, on one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls housing for all by 2024 and affordable housing his dream projects, but on the other, the JDA is busy making the poorest of the poor with a roof on their head shelterless.
“The J-K administration in general and JDA officials, in particular, seem to be under a mistaken belief that our system of governance is autocracy run at whim and caprice of one or few individuals with no role for rule of law and that they are free from constitutional obligation to secure economic and social justice to disempowered and unattended segments of society,” he said.
He sought immediate intervention of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in the matter and demanded that the affected families be rehabilitated, the residential sites restored to them and compensation paid to the victims without any delay.
He has also demanded regularisation of all such colonies in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh on the pattern such colonies have been regularised in Delhi and other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the National Conference delegation led by Additional General Secretary Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal and Provincial President Rattan Lal Gupta on Friday visited Roop Nagar and expressed solidarity with the Gujjar families, whose dwelling units were razed to the ground by Jammu Development Authority, rendering them roofless in these chilly winters.
AGS Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, PP (Jammu) Rattan Lal Gupta and other senior leaders visited the grief-stricken Gujjar-Bakarwal families who suffered at the hands of JDA after they conducted an arbitrary and illegal demolition drive displacing members of minority community in Jammu. pic.twitter.com/Fpcx6UFlys
— JKNC (@JKNC_) January 14, 2022
Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal expressed anguish over the authoritarian attitude of the JDA and accompanying official teams, saying subjecting the aged, old, sick, women and children to the worst type of miseries is a human rights violation, which cannot be condoned. The erring official teams must be held accountable for their inhuman treatment to the hapless families.
Apni Party Reacts
Apni Party President Altaf Bukhari Thursday appealed to the administration to order a high-level probe into the alleged selective demolition drive by the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) against a tribal community.
Bukhari said that it was unfortunate to know about the plight of the marginalised nomad families during the harsh winter season whose houses were dismantled by the JDA in the drive which is being questioned for its selective approach.
JDA displaced them by demolishing their concrete houses and cattle sheds without prior notices which is an injustice and should be investigated. From the last several years, the people of Jammu, especially the marginalised section of society, have accused JDA of its selective approach, he said.
Bukhari said that the allegations against the JDA must be probed by a high-level investigation team and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha must monitor the investigation.
These kinds of acts create a sense of insecurity and mistrust against the government. There must be accountability and the displaced persons should be resettled appropriately by adopting a humanitarian approach, he said.
He said that the Apni Party believes that the rights of the Forest Right Act should be extended to the tribal community and other forest dwellers in the actual form on the ground and the poor people should not be made homeless for one reason or another.
“The JDA has become infamous for such drives in Jammu. It appears they do not have a proper development plan for Jammu. If several illegal colonies can be regularised selectively, why can’t the houses of nomads whose ancestors have lived in these places and protected the land much before the existence of JDA,” he said.
There must be a planned housing as well as a regularisation policy for the residential colonies without a partial approach against anyone. And, everyone should get benefits from these policies. In the past too, they launched similar drives and the majority of them turned out to be selective as they were focused on the displacement of tribals.
Bukhari also demanded that the colonies of tribals should be regularised and the poor should not be harassed again in the name of anti-encroachment drives.
Senior CPI (M) leader Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami said, “This is how ST and tribal communities are being treated while the government claims to be empowering them.”
Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) Chairman Hakeem Yaseen expressed anguish over the demolition drive against the selected houses of Gujjar and Bakerwal community by the JDA.
A statement of PDF issued here quoted Yaseen as urging the government to desist from dismantling houses of Gujjar and Bakerwal community adding that such ill-conceived and anti-people decisions would have serious repercussions.
Peoples Conference (PC)
Peoples Conference (PC) senior Vice President Abdul Gani Vakil criticised the government for targetting sub-minorities in Jammu and Kashmir.
A statement of PC issued here quoted Vakil as saying that on one hand, the government was claiming to empower the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes through different electoral processes and programmes, on the other hand, it continued to witch hunt them on different pretexts.
He stressed on the government to stop witch-hunting Gujjars and Bakerwals and allow them to live in dignity.