Locals protest over Army encroachment in Sonamarg


Sonamarg: Residents, traders and land owners here staged a protest against fencing of their lands by the Indian Army.
Hundreds of local villagers, bussinessmen and other land owners staged a sit-in protest outside Army camp in Sonamarg, a famous tourist resort here in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. The protestors said that Army encroached upon their over 100 kanals of land at Sonamarg.
“As people migrate to other villages due to severe cold and harsh Winter here in Sonamarg, the Indian Army occupies the land and claims that they have taken it on lease from years, a protester Ishfaq Ahmad Kapra said. This year also the same was repeated as they have no rules and regulations,” he added.
“We are afraid that in coming years, the Army might occupy our properties like houses and restaurants as the forces are expanding land occupation every year”, another protester Aadil Ahmad said. Last year also, Army fenced the 100 kanal truck-yard area,” he added.
Showing court papers and other land documents, owner of Maqbool Camping Agency Mohammad Maqbool Kapra said: “My sign boards were damaged and the Army is trying to vacate us from our own land and they want to make bankers here”. “I will either kill myself or my own family if they did anything to my land”, he threatened.
A group of local villagers of Sonamarg headed with local headmen, Panch and Sarpanch said: “Our farm lands and pasture lands are being fenced by concrete wires from years and our local adminstration is either sleeping or getting their share”. Pointing towards a Dhaba aside Army camp, the owner Qayoum said: “See how they fenced it with wire and few days back I was the owner and was freely roaming around but today I was shocked to see a board infront of my Dhaba with ‘Army Land’ written over it and a banker on the gate of my Dhaba.”
The land owners threatened that if the Army continued ‘illegal possession of the land’ and refused to take down the fencing, they will launch massive agitation on state level causing hindrance to Amarnath Yatra.
Villagers also blamed Indian government of playing foul with Kashmiris.”It looks different when the GOI is trying to settle the refugees of Pakistan here in Kashmir but what about we people who are part and parcel of the state promulgated as the crown of India”, a villager of Sonamarg said.
Local bodies and other trade unions have appealed Governor of the State, NN Vohra to interfere and help them.
Tehsildar Gund, Dr. Shoaib Wani and a police team from police station Sonamarg were also present there when the protest was going on.
Sources from Revenue department confirmed about the enchroachment and pointed out some Khasra numbers – 484, 485, 481, 341, 317, 318, 321, 322, 324, 349, 477, 475 and confirmed over 100 kanals of land being occupied illegally.
When contacted SDM Kangan, Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that he visited the place with Revenue team and told the Army officers to remove the fencing around the land.
“Law will take its own course and nobody will be allowed to violate the norms,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite several attempts no official from Sonamarg Development Authority and Indian Army was available for comments.

Beigh Irshad Beigh Irshad
Beigh Irshad is a Kashmir based freelance journalist
Facebook | Email: Ishueye@gmail.com


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