Scores of people staged a protest in Sunjwan-Bathindi on the city’s outskirts against the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s ongoing anti-encroachment drive to retrieve “illegally occupied” land, reported PTI.
The authorities have served public notices to violators in the area and ordered them to remove illegal constructions within seven days.
Carrying tricolours, the protesters, including women and children, poured onto the main road in driving rain and tried to march towards the Civil Secretariat against the eviction order, officials said.
However, police stopped the march while a sub-divisional magistrate tried to persuade the protesters to disperse.
The sub-divisional magistrate invited the demonstrators for talks and assured them that no building, residential or commercial, constructed over a small piece of land would be demolished.
Safdar Choudhary, a protester, said the eviction notices had taken away their peace of mind. “We have built our dwellings after investing our life’s earnings to provide shelter to our children. What will happen to us if they destroy our homes?,” he said, asking, “Where will we go? We are also the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and this country.” They have been holding the land for over 70 years and, instead of regularising the area, the administration is serving notices, he said.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Gulam Ali Khatana also spoke to the protesters and assured them that he would take up their grievance with the Lt Governor and the Centre.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Varinder Singh Sonu and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Rajesh Gupta joined the protesters and launched a scathing attack on the BJP for the “anti-people” drive.
“This is not a political issue but a humanitarian one. All political parties are standing with the protesters as their concerns are genuine. They have been living on the land for generations and today, they have been served a notice to leave,” Sonu said.
AAP leader Gupta accused the administration of harassing and persecuting the downtrodden on the pretext of removing encroachments and retrieving state and forest land.
The government action to divest the poor farmers and agriculturalists of their lands and work places was not only loathsome but “sinful”, he said.
“The BJP government is pro-rich and anti-poor. It will pay a heavy price for its sins in the days to come,” Gupta said. (PTI)