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After SKUAST land, Army wants more in Manasbal

20 March, 2007

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Srinagar: An eerie feeling indicative of resentment is evident among villagers on the banks of picturesque Manasbal lake as fear of losing their prized possession –land – is constantly haunting them. But unison is their resolve to thwart attempts to acquire the possession through ‘coercive or covert’ means.

These villagers fear that acquisition by Army will lead to deprivation of their only source of livelihood and have been protesting by taking to streets expressing their resentment over the proposed take over.

After taking over hundreds of kanals of state land at Baran Pather Manasbal, Greater Kashmir has learnt that Army has sent another requisition for land in the area.

On November 8, 2006, Major Sahsh Kumar (Offg AQMG) of 3 sector Rashtriya Rifles sent a letter vide number 71/5/LAM/Q to Deputy Commissioner Varmul.

The letter reads: “It is intimated that since MoU between Army and Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) has already been signed, there is a need for acquiring the additional land available contiguous to Manasbal Grn (garrison). In view of the above you are requested to kindly instruct the tehsildar/revenue department Sumbal to provide the requisite assistance/info on PRIORITY.”

On November 16, 2006, Deputy Commissioner Varmul vide letter number DCB/LA/06/Manasbal/1781-82 directed Tehsildar Sumbal to contact Army authorities, identify the land and furnish the revenue documents shajra khasra, khasra girdawari, mislihaqiat and average rate at an earliest.

Sources told Greater Kashmir that Army has identified land at three villages adjacent to 3-sector RR for acquisition, which includes nearly 600 kanals of orchard land of ex-chief secretary of J&K at Asham village, 137 kanals at Nawabadi mohalla Safapora, 137 kanals at Sheikhbagh and 562 kanals at Ganie Mohalla Asham village.

“The Army had also sent requisition for 500 kanals of Wakf land at Asham village, but it was turned down by revenue authorities as they feared it would raise public outcry. The proposal was later abandoned, but the Army has asked the revenue authorities to look for equal land in the vicinity which could be later exchanged with Wakf land,” sources said.

“The demarcation process of 137 kanals at Nawabadi mohalla, 137 kanals at Sheikhbagh and 562 kanals at Ganie mohalla has been completed by the revenue authorities. However, due to the resentment from villagers the acquisition may take some more time,” they said.

“There wasn’t any hiccup for the Army in acquisition of Ex-Chief secretary’s 600 kanals of land till last year. But Muhammad Ismail Kawa, a resident of Srinagar claims that he has purchased 100 kanals of land from ex-chief secretary some years back. He (Kawa) has filed a case in Varmul court and stay ordered the sale. Now the ex-chief secretary is asking the Army to leave these 100 kanals and pay him for the rest of the land,” the sources added.

The proposed takeover of land by the Army has triggered chain reaction of protests in the entire area and villagers many a times took to streets to protest against it. The residents say that Army is planning to build Defence complex in the area and fear they would be rendered homeless and landless in future.

The areas, which could suffer in future, if locals are to be believed that Army is intending to turn the whole area into a garrison are: Asham, Nawabadi Mohalla, Safapora, Naninara, Baghwan mohalla and Nesbal. All these villages are situated at the banks of famous Manasbal Lake.

“The economy of our area is dependent on agriculture and horticulture. Army wants to snatch our bread and butter,” a delegation of residents of Safapora told Greater Kashmir.

“We appeal to concerned not to dislocate us. Neither the state government nor the Army authorities seem interested in our well-being. Most of us are from the agricultural community and are illiterates. Where will we take our huge families,” the residents said.

The residents of Asham village seem to be more concerned by the Army acquisition as they fear the only irrigation canal, which feeds the village would get closed down.

“The Lar canal which passes just outside 3-sector RR irrigates thousands of kanals of orchard and paddy land in our village. If Army goes ahead with the proposal, not only we would have to leave a large chunk of fertile land, but the remaining land will be useless in absence of irrigation facilities,” they said.

Deputy Commissioner Varmul Baseer Ahmed Khan assured that nobody would be forced to give his land.

“We haven’t considered the Army requisition yet. If people will object, we can’t force them,” he said.

Asked for how much land, requisition from Army has come, the DC avoided the answer saying, “It is in initial stages yet. If people have objections how can we force them?”

PRO Defence Lt Col AK Mathur confirmed that requisition for acquiring land of ex-chief secretary has been made.

“We’ve requisitioned for 450 kanals of land of ex-chief secretary and he has also agreed to give his land to the Army. We have also requisitioned for 22 kanals of land from a nearby village and 99 kanals of SKUAST’s unused land,” Col Mathur said.

However, the PRO denied that villagers are being forced to give land to the Army.

“Nobody is on ground forcing anyone to give land to the Army and we haven’t sent requisition for any other land. We want only our land which was occupied by the SKUAST back,” the PRO added.

Courtesy - ZULFIKAR MAJID (GK)

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