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Many Gujjars left homeless after demolition drive by J&K administration

The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s demolition drive,  which primarily targets temporary residing places of nomadic communities, has taken off in Pahalgam area in the Valley’s Anantnag district. Kuccha houses in which Gujjar and Bakarwal communities used to dwell, were demolished on Friday.

It has been almost a week since structures have been razed to the ground in remote areas of Pahalgam like Lidroo, Khelan, Movera, Mamal and Rangward where the nomads make houses temporarily. Many of them also own lands here for grazing of cattle and other purposes.

Authorities believe that the area has been illegally occupied and have issued notices in many areas to these people asking them to clear the land. The notice addressing these people reads that they have illegally occupied the land of the forest department and also constructed an embankment. They are informed in this connection to demolish these illegal structures within the seven days.”

Members of these tribals have been warned in the notice to vacate the place as soon as possible or the department of forest will have the authority to demolish “illegal” constructions by them.

There are a large number of people who belong to the tribal communities of Jammu and Kashmir and do not own any land. They have only one choice and that is to make temporary kuccha houses and reside in them.

These nomadic tribes in the summer– especially Bakarwals – rear cattle in the grazing lands with high altitude and put up in the wood-and-mud structures. They cross over the Pir Panjal range, when the winters start, towards Jammu region and settle there for the next six months. Most of their residential structures in the Kashmir forests remain abandoned during the season of winters.

A 50-year-old Farooq Ahmed has lived with his family at Wangidar, in Pahalgam, for his whole life. Decision of the forest department to demolish these structures is like a nightmare for Farooq.

A labourer named Ahmed said that his family has been using the 1 kanal land on which they had built a house for themselves and a cow shed. They also rely on the same land to raise their livestock.

A few days ago, locals claimed that authorities have razed down more than 13 kuccha houses in Lidroo-Wangidar area and warned the residents to vacate land. With the season of winter approaching, local residents do not have many options left to settle anywhere else.

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