Anti-encroachment drive sparks protests; people burn tyres, block highway

Guest house of former minister and others being demolished during an anti encroachment drive in Jammu outskirts on Sunday. (UNI)
JAMMU, MAR 27 (UNI):- The house of former minister and other illegally constructed structures being demolished during an anti encroachment drive in Jammu outskirts on Sunday. UNI PHOTO-41U

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Mar 27: A large number of structures including Former Minister’s guest house and dairy processing unit were demolished during anti-encroachment drives here today, triggering protests by people who blocked the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway near Bhatindi crossing for several hours.

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As per official sources, dozens of structures, including buildings and shops, were demolished partially or completely near Bathindi crossing on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway in the early morning drive by the Revenue Department amid heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people took to streets and blocked the highway by burning tyres and staging a sit-in against the ‘selective drive’.
Additional Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, Shyambir had a tough time in maintaining law and order and was seen persuading the protesters to lift the blockade with an assurance that the administration will look into their grievances sympathetically.
“We suspended the drive on the public demand and asked them to form a committee to raise their issues at the right forum. We are here to address their genuine issues,” he told reporters at the scene of the protest.
Asked about the demand for compensation for the damage, he said the issue of compensation will be decided during deliberations with the committee.
Sources said that the drive was carried out in accordance with the laid down rules to reclaim the state land illegally occupied by the people and there was no violation on part of the administration.
However, the protesters accused the district administration for “selective drives” to dislodge a particular community.
“They came around 5 am and started the demolition drive without any prior notice. The law is equal for everyone, but why this selective drive in our areas? Was the Government sleeping when the buildings were raised?”, one of the protesters said. He said properties worth crores were damaged.
“We have electricity connections and ration cards. There is no justification for the drive. It is nothing but hooliganism”, he alleged. Several protesters also claimed to have legal documents for the land in question.
However, an open FIR has been registered against the protesting mob at Police Station Bahu Fort for blocking the vehicular movement on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and investigation has been initiated.
Meanwhile, the guest house and a dairy processing unit of former Minister were among many illegal structures demolished.
Police sources said that the officials from Revenue Department launched anti-encroachment drive at Karnaila Chak area of Satwari and demolished ‘illegally’ constructed guest house and dairy processing unit of former Congress Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din, a shop and other structures.
“The law and order situation was normal during the drive”, the sources said.
Hours after anti encroachment drive carried out in Karnaila Chak area of Satwari of Satwari here, former Jammu and Kashmir Minister, Taj Mohi-ud-Din has said that the structures demolished was not owned by him.
In a video message circulated on the social media, Taj Mohi-ud-Din refuted the allegations that the demolished property belonged to him and said, “this is not true. The matter is disputed and is in the court of law”.
“The property and structures are in the name of some of my relatives and they have legally purchased the land and I have no connection with the property”, he said adding that an attempt has been made to malign his image by some vested interests.
In one more anti-encroachment drive, 12 kanals of prime forest land was retrieved on Jammu-Srinagr National Highway near Mohmaya Temple. 17 concrete structures were also dismantled during the drive.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference condemned the razing of dozens of structures, including buildings near Bathindi crossing on the Narwal Bypass, terming the action part of the larger plan of ruling BJP to disenfranchise every segment of the society in J&K.
In a joint statement Provincial President Jammu Rattan Lal Gupta, Deputy Chief Spokesperson Dr Gagan Bhagat, Javed Rana, Ajay Sadhotra, Sajad Kitchloo, Ajaz Jan, Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy, Abdul Gani Malik, Babu Ram Paul, Jagjeevan Lal, Mohammad Hussain, Qazi Jalal- Ud- Din and many others said the authoritarian attitude of the authorities on subjecting the aged, old, sick, women and children to the worst type of miseries is a human rights violation, which cannot be condoned at any level.
Amrit Wattal, Aam Admi Party (AAP) Youth President Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha constituency condemned the anti-encroachment drive in different areas of Jammu. Amrit Wattal criticized the authorities for conducting anti-encroachment drives without serving any prior notices to the people.