Anti-Encroachment Drive in Jammu, an Attempt to Drive Out Muslims?

Despite there being 21 unauthorised colonies in Jammu, no other colony except those with Muslim-majority populations are being targeted, said Er. Rashid of AIP.

Image Courtesy: The News Now

An anti-encroachment drive in Jammu on December 22 witnessed a mob pelting stones at a joint team of Jammu Development Authority (JDA). As per the reports, police were also attacked by a violent mob injuring at least eleven people, including six police personnel. The crackdown took place near the Nikki Tawi, which is the fourth bridge area of Jammu. The commencement of the drive had resulted in clashes by the residents of the area, which include mostly Gujjars.  

As per the report, the injured accused the mob of pelting stones and bricks on their team and their vehicles resulting in injuries to over 11 persons and damage to four vehicles.

Speaking with NewsClick, a local said, “This is a selective anti-encroachment drive specifically targeted at Gujjar colonies, which is predominantly Muslim. The Right-wing groups have been targeting Gujjars for a long time and the drive was a result of that. Since the BJP has come to power, Gujjars and Muslims in Jammu have been feeling insecure.” A resident said that the encroachment was an attempt to dislodge Gujjars and evict them from Jammu.

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Gujjars living in the area have unanimously condemned the anti-encroachment drive by calling it an “attempt to evict Muslims.” Speaking to reporters, AIP (Awami Ittehad Party) president, Er Rashid condemned the exercise by the authorities and called it a “selective and communal” approach. He said, “On February 3 this year, the state assembly was told that there are 21 unauthorised colonies in Jammu city but one has the right to ask why only Muslim dominated colonies are being targeted. Not even a single unauthorised colony of any other community is being disturbed.”

The Jammu Muslim Front (JMF) has also condemned the anti-encroachment drive by calling it a “selective” drive against the Muslim community. They have appealed to the Governor Satya Pal Malik to issue orders to the concerned authorities to “stop harassment of Muslims in the Jammu region.”

Speaking with NewsClick, another local said, “When the houses were raised at that time, nobody said it was illegal, we were given electricity, water connections. Why suddenly an anti-encroachment drive now? There has been a concerted effort to evict Muslims, be it Gujjars, Rohingyas and Kashmiris from Jammu. Feeling of insecurity has been spread among the Hindu population in Jammu. Such events are the result of the broader aim to knock Muslims out of the region. Gujjars from Rajouri and Samba regions used to live near Nikki Tawi, where the JDA attempted to launch an anti-encroachment drive.”

In 2016, former Forest Minister from BJP, Lal Singh had threatened Gujjar and Bakarwals by reminding them of the1947 massacre of Muslims in the region. As per the complaint filed against him, he had said, “Oye Gujroo tum bhul gaye 1947 ko (You Gujjars, have you forgotten 1947).”

For a long time, there have been attempts to polarise Jammu. Kathua rape and murder case, where an eight- year old Bakarwal minor girl raped and murder highlighted the alleged attempt of the locals to instil fear among the nomads to drive them out of the area. The rape case had taken an unpleasant turn, dividing communities on communal lines.

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In another such instance, a Hindu Right-wing group including Madhu Kishwar, Sushil Pandit, and Ajay Chrungoo had come together in a seminar, namely, “Ikk Jutt Jammu Maha Adhiveshan (The Save Jammu Crusade)” organised by the famous right-wing social media group named Shankhnaad. The seminars talked about the “dangers posed to the people of Jammu from the growth of Muslim colonies in and around Jammu, and how it is a concerted effort to change its demography.”