An extraordinary meeting of Panchayat members, members of J&K RTI Movement, civil society groups and senior citizens was held at Brass village of Budgam in which ‘Toasmaidan Bachao Front’ was formed in order to build pressure on the Government to shift the Toasmaidan firing range for which the lease agreement is expiring next year.
Pertinently more than 200 people have been killed by unexploded shells and continuous firing by Army in past 54 years. The J&K Government had leased the meadows of Drang and Toasmaidan to Army (Artillery force) in 1962 and since then hundreds of people have lost their limbs and are handicapped permanently.
“More than 52,000 people are suffering due to continuous firing and mortar shelling in this area. The firing starts every year in May and lasts till October, which is not only a great threat to human life but has also disturbed and destroyed environment, wildlife, education and animals as well. Thousands of houses have also been damaged in last 54 years. The life of the people has been traumatized by this firing range. The children are born deaf and depression level is on rise among the natives of about 50 villages,” a spokesperson of the Front said in a statement to KNS.
Chairman J&K RTI Movement Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool said they have extended their full support to the Front and will work on every stage to get the genuine demands of the people of this area fulfilled democratically.
The Chairman of the Front Mohammad Maqbool Magray said there are other places in J&K which are best suited for firing range like Zanskar in Ladakh. “So it will be in the interest of humanity to shift the range on war foot basis,” he added.
The Front will be an amalgam of elected Panchayat representatives, J&K RTI Movement, Civil Society groups, school for Environment and Rural development and Rural Voice. “The lease agreement is expiring in next year and agencies have started harassing some people of the area who speak out against the extension in lease agreement of this range,” the spokesperson said.
The Front has unanimously declared to work on complete removal of Toasmaidan firing range, advocacy for development of Toasmaidan as a tourist area, advocacy and demand for the rehabilitation and compensation to the people who have been killed, disabled, and whose houses have been damaged and plantation of trees in the areas where deforestation has taken place rampantly.
Mohamad Maqbool Magray (Brass village) will act as Chairman of the Front, Molvi Maqbool General Secretary, Coordinators Farooq Ahmad Sheikh (Khag), Ghulam Mohammad Shah (Khag), Nazir Ahmad Lone Organizer (Shunglipora)