SHOPIAN — Six media persons were beaten in southern Kashmir’s Shopian district during an eviction drive carried out by employees of J&K Forest Department on Monday.
As per the local sources, a team of Forest Department employees led by range officer had reached Zampathri (Tragpathre) Keller area in Shopian for retrieving land, which according to the Department is ‘encroached illegally’ by the people including those from Gujjar community.
As soon as the Forest officials reached to the area, a large crowd of people appeared with sticks and thrashed the Forest Department employees and kept them hostage, sources said.
Twelve employees of the Department were reportedly injured in the violent incident. However, nine people from the resisting nomads were also injured, among which two were hospitalized, after the employees “reacted in self defence”.
The members of nomad community, however, alleged that they are being evicted from their ancestral land. “We have been using this land from centuries and now they are trying to evict us. We are not going to leave,” they said.
“However, without warning, Forest Department officers arrived on the scene and began an eviction campaign. We argued that we leave the area every year, thus there was no reason for us to be evicted,” they stated.
Meanwhile, many media persons reached to the spot to cover the incident but the media men were also attacked with stones and sticks.
“Six media persons including Irshad Malik, Firdous Lone, Ijaz Dar, Nazir Wani and Sajad Mir were beaten by the protesting nomads even when we repeatedly told them that we were from media, doing our job,” Shahid Tak, one of the journalists present at the scene, said.
He added, “After the violence, we went inside a nearby park where both of us (Forest employees and media men) took refuge, but we were held hostage for an hour there as the nomads surrounded us from all sides and didn’t let us move out.”
Later, a police team reached the area and helped calm the situation by ensuring safety of Forest officials and media persons.
“Two media men including Irshad Malik and Firdous Lone were treated for their injuries at a hospital in Keller,” Shahid said.