The Jammu and Kashmir administration has halted the anti-encroachment drive that snowballed into a major controversy, NDTV reported.
The drive has already evicted thousands of people who had been cultivating and residing on government land.
Bulldozers were used to remove encroachments of 20 Lakh kanals (2.5 lakh acres) of land across 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides retrieving land, many structures have been demolished.
Sources say the government is coming up with a policy to protect small landholders and till that time officials have been asked to stop the anti-encroachment drive.
“Yes, the anti-encroachment drive has been put on hold. This has been done to factor in and consolidate what has been achieved so far in the drive,” said a senior revenue official.
Officials say large tracks of state land that was occupied by people for decades have already been retrieved. Now the Revenue officials have been directed to furnish the status report of the land retrieved so far.
The officer said it was never the government’s intention to take away the land of small landholders or of those who have built a home.
He added the aim of the drive was to retrieve large tracks of land encroached by rich and powerful people.
“In every meeting, Lt Governor has made it clear that no common man should be touched during anti-encroachment drive,” he said.
The officer admitted that there were complaints that in some places common people have also suffered due to the drive.
The opposition claims bulldozers are being used on communal lines and that the government is taking away the livelihood of people.
The drive, which started in January, was meant to retrieve state land allegedly encroached on by many, including politicians and senior state officials. When the order set off an outcry, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and officials of his administration said only the encroachments by the “high and mighty” will be targeted in the drive. But in absence of any formal order or amendment of the original order, a mass eviction drive is being carried across the Union Territory.