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Encroachment drive in Jammu and Kashmir faces protest

Union Territory is witnessing a first-of-its-kind anti-encroachment drive aimed at retrieving tens of thousands of acres of land
Representational image.
Representational image.
File picture

Muzaffar Raina   |   Srinagar   |   Published 05.02.23, 03:10 AM

Jammu and Kashmir’s biggest “anti-encroachment” drive in decades faced violent resistance on Saturday, with mobs throwing stones at police in Jammu and the latter retaliating with batons and tear gas shells.

The Union Territory is witnessing a first-of-its-kind anti-encroachment drive aimed at retrieving tens of thousands of acres of land.


Officials claim thousands of acres, mostly belonging to influential persons including senior politicians, have been retrieved over weeks. Some plots of land were also occupied by impoverished families.

The government’s iron fist has ensured the Valley remains quiet but it faced its first challenge in Jammu where hundreds took to the streets to protest against a drive in Muslim- majority Bathindi.

Officials on Saturday rushed five excavators to demolish a shopping complex, bringing hundreds of protesters who feared their homes would be next in the line of fire on the road. The locals claimed that the Muslim community was being targeted.

Videos showed intense discussions between civil and police officials on one hand and civilians on the other. A police officer was heard telling the crowd that poor families won’t be touched and the decision had been taken by the “highest chair”.

It did little to assuage the mob, which attacked the police and drivers of the excavators with stones. A stone hit a cop on the head. Police retaliated with tear gas shells and batons. 

Jammu senior superintendent of police Chandan Kohli and senior officials visited the spot to take stock of the situation.

The government has so far mostly targeted influential politicians, including a BJP leader, but there is widespread fear that “one community” will be targeted.

The Valley has so far borne the brunt of the drive but there has been no violence despite raging anger.

The government had last month issued the order to evict encroachers from state land, sparking panic among people.

The drive was initially scheduled to start in 2020 in compliance with an October 9 directive of the high court. A top BJP leader and former Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta had then called the drive a “surgical strike” against “land jihad”.

Earlier, the J&K High Court had scrapped the controversial “Roshni Act”, which had legalised the encroachments in both Jammu and Kashmir following a campaign by Right-wing leaders, including those from the BJP.

It took a communal colour in Jammu after some leaders claimed it was the “biggest land scam in J&K’s history” and was aimed at altering Jammu’s Hindu-majority character.

The BJP was caught on the wrong foot after it emerged that most of the encroachments had taken place in Jammu and that Hindus had benefited from it. The Jammu and Kashmir government was forced to file a review petition seeking “modification” as it might “unintentionally affect a large number of common people”.

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