(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
By Majid Nabi
SIX days after the Union Territory administration launched an unprecedented eviction drive to free thousands of acres of state land from the illegal occupation, two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti criticised the bulldozing of properties without serving legal notices to occupants. Sajad Lone, considered close to BJP, also spoke and raised questions on the motive of the drive. He ridiculed a select group of babus holding reins of power at the secretariat who he accused of being behind the drive.
Omar Abdullah: Bulldozer Should Be The Last Resort
Coming down heavily on the Jammu and Kashmir administration over the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) Vice-president Omar Abdullah on Monday asked the government to give a chance to people to prove their claims on their lands and issue written notices before demolishing their properties.
Addressing a news conference here on Monday, Omar said the administration has already 'conceded' to the High Court that the present list mentioning people having allegedly infringed on the state property was“fabricated.” He questioned the administration for running bulldozers despite the list being 'incorrect'.
The former Chief Minister also maintained that using bulldozers to retrieve land from encroachers should only be done as a last resort and not the first option.
“The government is supposed to give respite to the populace and heal their wounds rather than using coercive measures,” he said, adding that the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without any political meddling, can also launch a peaceful protest like farmers did in the rest of India a few years ago.
When asked whether his party will move to the Supreme Court against the ongoing demolition drive, Omar said“I think our next step will depend on how the government responds to what I think are very reasonable suggestions. If there is a positive response, so be it, but if there isn't, then yes we will definitely consult some senior lawyers to see what options they suggest”
The NC Vice-President said that his sister approached the High Court with all relevant documents and the court has also pronounced its verdict in this direction.
“There has been chaos everywhere in J&K for the last one or two weeks. People are worried, unaware of reality. A list is issued in newspapers that mention names of several people including me and my party office. Raj Bhawan, IB office, R&EW, UNO, Army Public School, is also there in the list,” he said.
“The list then disappears and then comes another leaving everyone surprised and panicked. My sister moved to the High Court as we knew that the house mentioned in the list at Gupkar Road is not illegal as its lease is still intact, which I think will expire after a few years,” Omar said, adding,“If this happens to us, others too will be dealt in the same way. This is the forged list making rounds on social media,”
The former Chief Minister asked the government to come up with a genuine list and put the same in the public domain as no due process is followed during the ongoing drive.
“When they went to Nedou's, the media was aware but not the people living there. They broke open the main gate to make entry for the bulldozer and when the officer concerned was asked to check, he refused,” he said.
Omar alleged that the officer claimed he was pressurized to“do something”.
“Not only in Srinagar but the same reports come from other places as well. No notice was served to anyone, be it Nedou's, or Ali Mohammad Sagar,” he said.
He castigated the administration for not following the due course of law by serving a written notice to them or pasting the same on the gate of their houses.
“Have you pasted notices anywhere? Did you follow the law before creating this melodrama? You've threatened one and all, and if anyone asks questions they are bulldozed,” he said.
The NC leader also alleged that an extortion racket is being run by the officials, who call people and demand money for removing their names from the list.
Omar called upon the government to immediately stop what he termed as a 'threatening and annoying campaign'. However, he quickly added that none amongst them wants anyone to hold state land illegally.
“Our aim is not that people are allowed to encroach upon the state land. However, there is a procedure to stop people from doing this practice. It doesn't happen by threatening and coercing. Bulldozer shouldn't be your first step in this direction, but as a last resort. So, we appeal to the government to stop using bulldozers,” he added.
When asked about the pleas in SC challenging abrogation of Article-370, the NC Vice-President said“Our fight is known to everyone. It is a constitutional, legal and political fight that will continue. I truly believe, that if the government was confident in its defense, it would have pressed the SC for an early hearing”
“If not today than tomorrow, SC will have to hear this case. And we have an assurance from the current CJ that he will make sure that the hearings begin in this matter during his tenure,” he added.
Sajad Lone: Bulldozers Shouldn't Represent India in Kashmir
Accusing the Jammu and Kashmir administration of creating homelessness, Peoples Conference President Sajad Gani Lone said on Monday that“New Delhi shouldn't be represented by bulldozers in Kashmir, but by love and compassion.”
The administration seems to be more interested in humiliating people than retrieving state land from encroachers, Lone told reporters at his Church Lane residence.
“There is not a single day when videos of poor people being targeted for demolition are not coming in while the L-G is saying the poor will not be touched. Either the L-G Office is telling lies or the videos are fake.
Addressing a news conference at his church lane residence in Srinagar Lone said the objective of the ongoing eviction drive seems humiliation of Kashmiris.
“What is the objective of the government? Do they want to retrieve land or humiliate people? I think humiliation is more important for them,” he said.
Lone said that the current administration in J&K is not an elected regime and should leave bigger decisions for an elected government.
“(President's Rule) It is a temporary arrangement. They cannot make decisions on behalf of the people of J&K. They cannot make all decisions. They are not elected by the people,” Lone told reporters here.
Calling out it as an act of shamelessness, Lone while lashing out at authorities in the presser said,“This is not any bravery when you have 300 personals including other officials at the door of a poor man and then you start vandalization and click photos to claim you have done a big job, it is a matter of shame.”
Lone alleged that all this is done by a cabal of officers, who are against the elected government and also against those who talk about the elections.
“These are all tourists here and after a couple of years not even one of them will be here or they will return after retiring and the damage will leave a societal impact”, Lone said.
“We have no objection to the anti-encroachment drive if it is against big land owners. The big landowners will bring their lawyers tomorrow and take back all the encroached land. However, it's only the poor who are being targeted and left to die,” Lone said.
Accusing the government, Sajad Lone said that there are big names who have not been touched yet and that he will release their list very soon.
“I also have a list, let them finish after that we will release the list of those big and influential names who so far have not been touched yet”, he said.
“Everything has its own procedure. Across India, there is a system of serving notices. None of the poor have been served notices here,” Lone said.
Lone, who was flanked by senior PC leaders Peerzada Mansoor Hussain and Muhammad Ashraf Mir, said that the J & K administration is inventing homelessness by razing down the homes of poor people.“They are not giving any notice. The law of the land cannot be violated,” he said, adding that only the poor are suffering due to the ongoing eviction drive in J&K.
Lone, once seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also questioned the BJP-led Centre's claims of inclusiveness.
“I thought the PM is for everyone. But (it seems) 95 per cent encroachers are Muslims
Kashmir has gone through a prolonged period of turmoil and the government should not disrupt people's lives, Lone said.
“I do not know how they can win the hearts of people by demolishing their houses,” he said.
“I have never felt so helpless here. I want to ask my Prime Minister, who is my Prime Minister, who is the PM of the poor? Where will poor people go?” he asked
Lone, however, said he would not meet the Prime Minister on the issue.
Asked about the next course of action if the demolition drive continued, Lone said he would sit on a hunger strike in Delhi.
Mehbooba Mufti: Creating Homelessness In Kashmir
Addressing reporters in New Delhi PDP president Mehbooba Mufti slammed the anti-encroachment drive, and hit out at the BJP and Jammu and Kashmir administration, accusing them of turning the union territory into Afghanistan by following a“bulldozer policy”.
She said the BJP's initial call for 'Ek Samvidhan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan' has given way to 'one country, one language, one religion',“where there is no Constitution”.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief appealed to Opposition leaders in the country not to be a mute spectator to the“atrocities being committed by the BJP”.
“Parties including the Congress, Left, DMK, TMC, Samajwadi Party and others should raise their voices and not remain silent to the atrocities on common people in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.
When asked about the assurance of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha that houses of poor will not be touched during the drive, Mehbooba said it is an attempt to create a discord between the rich and poor.
The fact is that small houses with tin sheds are also being demolished which makes it clear that his message is not being heard on the ground, she claimed.
PDP Chief alleged the BJP is using its brute majority to weaponize everything and“bulldoze” the Constitution.
“Palestine is still better. At least people talk. Kashmir is becoming worse than Afghanistan the way bulldozers are being used to demolish homes of people. What is the purpose of demolishing small houses of people? Is there a bulldozer policy,” she said.
“The brunt is borne by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Whatever is happening since 2019 is an onslaught on our identity, on our economy, on our jobs, on our lands,” Mehbooba said.
The former chief minister said the BJP is bulldozing everything including the Constitution. She said it scrapped Article 370 saying it will integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country.
“I don't know about the integration but the destruction is massive. All the institutions including the media have been weaponized. They also want to subjugate the judiciary,” she said.
Mehbooba added she would not say much to the judiciary to avoid a contempt case.
Ruling party members and ministers are free to say anything e.g. Kiren Rijiju who keep speaking against the judiciary and gets away with it, she said
“The laws brought in after Article 370 removal have been weaponized to an extent that when you visit Jammu and Kashmir, it will resemble Afghanistan because the bulldozer is there. After 370 they destroyed our identity, outsourced our jobs, our land, our minerals, our resources. When I say outsourced it means given to outsiders,” she said.
She said all that was left with us is a roof on our heads because Jammu and Kashmir was the only state where people did not sleep on roads.
“The BJP thought that since they cannot bring the entire country to the standards of Jammu and Kashmir so they will bring Jammu and Kashmir to the level of the rest of the country...,” she said.
People taken out of poverty again slipped down the Below Poverty Line after the BJP came to power, and the party wants to replicate it in Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba said.
Mehbooba said that according to the government even the centuries-old Shankaracharya Temple and cantonment built by the erstwhile Maharaja are also on encroached land.
“The latest onslaught is our homes, our lives, our livelihood because houses and shops are being demolished in the name of so-called anti-encroachment drive. This too has been weaponized now.
Till now, the Enforcement Directorate and National Investigation Agency were used against journalists, human rights activists, politicians in the country, but Jammu and Kashmir has a special status where officers have their own units and have competition who can catch and harass more people, she alleged.
“What is happening in Jammu and Kashmir is extreme. Afghanistan which was not the USA's own territory they bombed in one go but in our state destruction takes place everyday. I don't think any state would have seen so many bulldozers which are now being moved in Jammu and Kashmir...Irony is crooks, fraudsters, scamsters, conmen have been given 45,000 square meter while land of common people are being snatched,” she said.
Voice of anyone speaking about the Constitution is being crushed, she said.
“Was removal of Article 370 in accordance with the Constitutional provisions?” she asked.
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