Srinagar: Dozens of locals from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday held a demonstration in Kakapora village against a recent decision to transfer land for the construction of camp for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The move, the locals said, would threaten their livelihoods.
The villagers held the demonstration calling for the withdrawal of the transfer of land. They expressed “shock” over the decision that the locals believe would put an end to their farming rights. The locals also fear that with these administrative orders they are at the risk of losing their only source of income.
The protest was joined by local village elders as well as elected representatives including village panches, who claimed that the villagers should be heard and the authorities should intervene to help them.
“It is our demand that this decision should be withdrawn. There is not much land left here and people are dependent on it and there is no other support system for us,” a local of Kakapora said.
The administration led by Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha on October 28 has approved the transfer of state land for various purposes including over 65 acres in favour of the CRPF. The transfer of land was made to establish battalion camping sites including in key areas of South Kashmir such as Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama.
According to officials, permanent camps would be set up in the villages of Oukhoo, Kadlabal, and Koil in Pulwama. But the locals of Oukhoo are now opposing the decision. “The land will be transferred against the payment as per the Stamp Duty Rates notified for the year, 2021. It will provide for safe and proper accommodation to CRPF personnel and their families,” an official statement read.
“We have been working on these fields for over a hundred years and we have recently paid remuneration for 21 years. We are left with no options,” another local said.
Deputy Commissioner Pulwama Baseer ul Haq Chaudhary told NewsClick that the protest was “illegal” as the land is State land. “Some people with vested interests are doing it (the protest). Action will be taken as per the law,” he said.
The village head Abdul Rashid told NewsClick that as many as 800 families, to whom the government should be kind, were dependent on the land where they grow paddy, mustard and wheat. “The fresh crop is yet to be harvested and the decision of construction of camps has come. It has devastated these poor farmers who are entirely dependent on the land,” he said.
Abdul Rashid said there were only about 200 kanals (1 kanal = 505.85 sq metre) of State land in the vicinity, which was designated as Kashtkari or agricultural land until year 2007 when the 1954 revenue assessment was revised. The locals of these villages including Oukhoo and Sathoor of Pulwama have since been tilling the state land to support their families, according to Abdul Rashid.
The administration recently announced a farmer training college to be established on around 60 kanals of land, following which a stadium has also been announced to be built on 40 kanals. The earmarking of about 80 kanals of land for CRPF camping has emerged as another blow to the local villagers.
BJP’s Minha Lateef, DDC Kakapora, appealed the LG administration to revoke the land transfer order so that people from the areas did not “suffer.” “We have already approached our party leadership and have also sought meeting with the LG in this regard and we are hoping that the authorities will revoke this decision as soon as possible,” she said.