In Jammu, cops have booked many youth for stone pelting, while scores of youth are absconding.
SRINAGAR: After scores of protests in Jammu and Kashmir and the return of political leaders of mainstream parties on the streets, there has been a halt to the demolition drive in parts of Kashmir valley and Jammu division.
In Jammu, many unauthorized colonies have reportedly received letters of eviction from the authorities, triggering protests and most of these protests are being led by joint political leadership like National Conference, DAP, AAP and PDP. Most of these political parties are participating in anti-demolition protests to consolidate their own strengths on the ground. Former Chief Minister and DAP President Ghulam Nabi Azad told this reporter that his party was the first to hold an anti-demolition protest in most of the district headquarters of Jammu and Kashmir. He said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah has assured him that poor people would not be touched during such drives and said that he had a detailed discussion with him about the emergence of unauthorized colonies in the Jammu region. President of Apni Party, Altaf Bukhari along with his party leaders is camping at Jammu, holding party conventions and press briefings about the demolition drive. Altaf Bukhari has appealed to the government to regularize all the unauthorized colonies and small land holdings of common people to avoid any big crises on the ground. He accused senior bureaucrats of giving wrong figures and facts to the LG office and accused them of wanton corruption in Jammu and Kashmir. “They are taking money from Jammu and Kashmir in their vehicles in the used tyres and stepneys and we have all the information. We also have the lists of corrupt people in the bureaucracy and people will have to wait for a few months till elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir. We will make them accountable to people,” Bukhari told this newspaper.
Most rational voices like former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former minister Sajad Gani Lone have cautioned the Central government to not allow the situation to deteriorate on the ground. Ghulam Nabi Azad has reportedly told Union Home Minister Amit Shah that all the work done on the ground post 5 August 2019 can come to a naught if the demolitions continue against the poor people and small shopkeepers. Azad cautioned the Jammu and Kashmir administration against its ongoing anti-encroachment drive, saying the “hartal and stone-pelting” culture is likely to return if homes and small shops are demolished.
“The government has done certain good things like ending the culture of hartal and stone-pelting (in Kashmir). It is a positive thing which has happened, but if they start demolishing homes and small shops, there is a likelihood that hartals and stone-pelting will return and the government itself will be responsible for it,” he was quoted in the media as saying.
In Jammu, police has booked several youth for stone pelting during the demolition drive, while scores of youth are absconding as they are wanted by police after the recent protests against the evictions.
The Aam Aadmi Party in Jammu has said that the ongoing eviction drive will bring down BJP from power. The Aam Aadmi Party held protests in Kashmir valley also and said that the eviction drive was against poor and marginal people.
The protests intensified against the demolition drive, most of the mainstream leaders and former chief ministers expressed surprise that among the encroachers were only the Muslims and with only few names of other communities. In the Jammu region most of the demolition drive was focused on Muslim pockets of the population, forcing a rational voice like that of former minister Sajad Gani Lone questioning the intentions of the administration.
“Ninety five percent of encroachers are being shown as Muslims while two or three people of other communities is only a farce. You cannot punish a particular community under the pretext of an encroachment drive. You cannot do this”, Sajad Gani Lone said in the press conference.
Former chief minister and vice president of National Conference Omar Abdullah, who is regarded as a soft voice against New Delhi was forced to hold the press conference to describe the demolition drive as lawlessness. He said that bulldozing should be the last option and not the first option for the administration to go against its own people. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti lashed out at BJP and New Delhi policy makers alleging them of making Kashmir another Afghanistan. Mehbooba Mufti immediately came to New Delhi with her party leaders to hold the protest and was arrested by Delhi police.
“If we can’t go to Parliament, I wonder where we should go then. Does the government want us to get our grievances redressed at the United Nations,” Mehbooba asked. There is no rule of law that can be seen in Jammu and Kashmir and “we came all the way to Delhi to speak our hearts out. But it seems that here also the voice of the general public is muzzled,” she said.
Omar Abdullah appealed to the government not to make people shelter less in Kashmir valley and in Jammu region while charging the administration of making this drive as a source of corruption. Sajad Gani Lone also attacked LG Manoj Sinha and Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta, comparing them with tourists and cautioned them to leave bigger decisions to the public and the next elected government. He said, “not a day passes when LG government in J&K says that they will not touch the poor and not a day passes when we see videos on social media with poor people being left without a shelter. Either the videos are fake or the LG office is lying” Lone was quoted as saying.
“After a long conflict, common people are trying to earn their livelihood with great struggle and the government is out to snatch even the shelter on their heads. Some bureaucrats are trying to show bulldozers as the face of Indians in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead it should have been love and compassion, instead of snatching even their shelters” Lone was quoted as saying.
Senior political leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Altaf Bukhari are confident that the Union Home Ministry will roll back the demolition order so that the “good work” done on the ground for several years is not wasted.