Mehbooba Mufti allege “forcible eviction’’ of Gujjars, Bakarwals from pastures

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Srinagar, November 16: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday condemned the “forced eviction’’ of Gujjars and Bakarwals from their pastures by the UT administration.

The PDP leader who visited Lidroo village in South Kashmir to meet families of Gujjars and Bakarwals allegedly evicted from forests, said they have been living in sheds made of wooden log and mud during the grazing season since time immemorial. “They are part of the forest and our environment,’’ she said, regretting that a drive has been launched to demolish these structures which they use as temporary shelters during summers. “Does this mean that these nomadic tribes can no longer go to pastures?’’ she asked, adding “is that the Part II of this displacement scheme?’’ “Who do they intend to sell the forest land to?,” asked the former Chief Minister.

Referring to media reports that the government has requisitioned 24,000  kanals of forest land for setting up industries, Mehbooba Mufti said that “will be a disaster for not only the forests and environment but also cause in the Gujjar community being rendered homeless’’. While hundreds of new provisions of laws have been introduced without any consultation with local stakeholders and mostly not beneficial to us, the few laws that could result in some benefit to the residents to the state are not being implemented, she said. “One of them is the Forest Act of 2006, which could provide a legal framework for Gujjar and Bakarwal rights on Forest land,’’ she added.

Similarly, while lands are being requisitioned in bulk, the Central land Acquisition Act is not being implemented, so that the landholders of J&K do not receive any benefit therefrom,” Mehbooba said.

She added that the “illegal and immoral assault on Gujjar and Bakarwal population is a wake-up call for all of us and that the dislocation has begun with them and it will hit all of us’’.

Criticizing the events taking place on August 5, 2019 as “beginning of a process of complete disempowerment and displacement of the people of J&K’’, she said the process has been unfolding in parts with most of the new laws targeting land, resources and population of J&K and Ladakh. “Every aspect of our life is threatened. The new domicile laws have opened a flood gate of not just bona fide entrance but for a planned mass influx of different kinds of people which its planners think could be part of its strategic management of the Muslim majority state,’’ she said, adding that this influx in the coming years will change the complexion of the state and all its regions and sub-regions including Jammu, Ladakh, Pir Panjal, Chenab beyond recognition.