Hundreds of people have been left homeless as the ‘unexpected’ demolition drives conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir administration in many parts of the Kashmir Valley.
The district magistrates of different areas of Valley have constituted teams which are carrying out the task. From March onwards this year, notices had been issued to these people for vacating the land.
The authorities claim that the land on which these homes, shops and business complexes have been built is illegally occupied. However, locals say that they possess these buildings for years.
Around 50 shops were demolished near the main bus stand in Tral in south Kashmir in this March after the administration served them notices. This cause loss of jobs for dozens of shopkeepers. Many of these shopkeepers have now become street vendors. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown had temporarily stopped the demolitions for a while and it has resumed in November. Locals are very upset with the decision as they have problem of finding shelter in this harsh winter season.
Hasnain Masoodi, National Conference (NC) leader and member of parliament from Anantnag says that this demolition drives should have been postponed because of the region’s harsh winter and coronavirus pandemic. Masoodi said that as if the sufferings of the people because of successive clampdowns and lockdown because of COVID-19 were not enough, the government has now decided to make people homeless.
Demolition drives videos and photos are being circulated in many parts of Kashmir and are drawing widespread attention in the country. Most of these pictures show debris and people looking upset. People of J&K were apprehensive when the new land policies were introduced.
The administration says that the demolition drives is conducted for evicting encroachers and make the development of roads smoother.
A recently retired engineer of J&K’s roads and buildings department told The Wire that the government is conducting these drives for making roads wider. People are losing their homes and shops, but the administrational records show that the properties belong to the government.
He adds that people affected by the demolitions can’t file cases in the courts because their properties had been established on government land.