SRINAGAR, Feb 5 (PTI): The ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Jammu and Kashmir is another attempt to “seize our land and cause massive changes to our demography”, the PDP claimed on Sunday, alleging the Centre has “prioritised” evicting people from their homes rather than addressing unemployment, and the safety of Kashmiri Pandits.
In its monthly newsletter, ‘Speak Up’, released on Sunday, the party said that in the past three years “the only reforms we have received from the Centre are land laws because for GOI (government of India) it will always be about the land”.
“Even Ladakhis that were happy with the abrogation (of Article 370) are feeling buyer’s remorse as they realize they’ve been duped by GOI. For over a year now, they have been demanding statehood and special status as per the 6th schedule.
“Prior to the abrogation, Ladakhis had precedence over government jobs and land ownership rights. Their leaders have also finally acknowledged that they were much better off as a part of J-K,” the party said.
The Peoples Democratic Party — led by Mehbooba Mufti — said the administration’s “massive eviction” drive is in full swing with the objective of reclaiming State land by evicting the “so-called encroachers”.
“Now, it just so happens that Raj Bhavan and Badami Bagh cantonments fall under the same category. The anti-encroachment drive is another attempt to seize our land and cause massive changes to our demography. It’s ironic that whilst GOI is busy evicting the inhabitants of our lands, 2000 sq. km of land in Ladakh has been encroached upon by China, a fact GOI will never concede,” it said.
The party said the brunt of these exercises will be borne by those who have lived here for centuries.
“Not only are people being dispossessed of their land but this will also affect the livelihoods of many, thereby compounding our unemployment which is the highest in the country,” it said.
“Instead of addressing pressing issues like the safety of Kashmiri Pandits, staggering unemployment, corruption and the welfare of our people, GOI prioritized evicting people from their land. This is what governance has been reduced to,” the newsletter added.
Describing the anti-encroachment drive the “latest addition to GOI’s arsenal of weapons to persecute” the people of J-K, the party said having exhausted every tactic to “threaten our people into silence and submission”, they are now resorting to evicting people during Chilaikalan, the harshest period of winter.
“BJP’s lotus seems to have been replaced by a bulldozer where Kashmir is concerned, a far cry from the insaniyat and jamhooriyat that Kashmiris were promised.
“Such measures will further add to the apprehensions of the people about the government’s intent to alter our demography by dispossessing the locals and incentivizing outside settlers to take their place. It’s no secret that GOI’s Kashmir policy emulates the Israeli model in Palestine,” the PDP said.
On the recent decision by the Centre to arm village defence committees in Rajouri area of Jammu, the party said it speaks to their “myopic vision” of the Kashmir issue that they cannot see outside the barrel of a gun.
“What seems like a simple solution may very well end up creating communal tensions by driving a wedge between the local communities that have been living in harmony up until now,” it said.
On the recently-concluded Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Mufti-led party said for the first time in many years, Kashmiris were not uneasy about a visit from New Delhi.
“Rahul Gandhi’s presence evoked an unprecedented response from our people. Ever since the abrogation, no opposition leader has taken the pains to reach out to J-K and after a long time Kashmiris felt a sense of reprieve, brief as it may have been.
“Kashmir was once seen as a ray of hope when the entire subcontinent was engulfed in communal fires. Today Kashmir is looking for that ray of hope, the light at the end of the tunnel,” the party said.
“Having witnessed a glimpse of that hope, we are reminded of Desmond Tutu’s words ‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness’,” the PDP said.