An eviction notice received by the Gujjar Bakerwal community in the Rakh Brah area of Anantnag’s Shangus Tehsil has created a panic among the locals as the authorities have asked them to vacate the land in the next 15 days for a demolition drive by the Revenue Department.
A total of almost 700 families have been living in the area and the Rakh and Farm department has allotted the land to them, according to the locals.
The government in December 2020, announced plans to evict tens of thousands of people it says are encroaching on protected land.
In December, the forest department of Jammu and Kashmir published a list of about 63,000 people. The department says they are living and farming illegally on a total of 15,000 hectares of forest land, according to a Reuters report.
One of the locals, Khalid Chowdhary while talking to The Kashmir Walla said a notice from the department shocked them. He said that they have been living in the area for the last 75 years. “How can the government do this to us when they have themselves settled us down?” he said.
As per an official document received by the tribals, the residents of the Tehsil Rakh Brah have been asked to vacate “the illegally encroached land within a span of 15 days”.
A tribal rights activist from Pahalgam, Chowdhary Irshad Khatana while speaking to The Kashmir Walla said that a notice has been issued by the Revenue department asking the families to vacate their homes within 15 days.
“There is a state of chaos among people. The authorities have never asked us anything, why now?” he said, adding that the government has a dual face. “They are saying one thing but if you look at the ground, they do something else.”
He also took to twitter and said that on one hand, the government is allotting the forest land to tribals while on the other hand, it is demolishing the already allotted land.
The residents of the area have written an application addressed to the Deputy Commissioner Anantnag. The copy of the letter lies with The Kashmir Walla.
According to the letter: “The Rakhs and Farm land is situated at village Rakhi Brah, Ranipora, Brah, Kawarigam and Khull Chochar of tehsil Shangus, which is the possession of farmers from 1947 and the department of Rakh and Farms (Agriculture) was taking 1/4 share of produce (crops) from farmers in 1947.”
It further reads that the farmers were authorised by the department of Rakhs and Farms to construct residential houses in the said land from time to time which include 550 residential houses, 300 cowsheds, 11 Mosques, 03 Govt. Middle schools, 01 pump house building, 01 panchayat building, 02 Eid Gah, 04 Graveyards, 02 Public parks, 07 Anganwadi (ICDS centres), 03 Darul Uloom and other infrastructures which mostly consists of poor Gujjar and Bakerwal schedule Tribes.
The tribals said that the Deputy Commissioner had assured them that no action or demolition will be done until verification is completed. They also added, “No team has visited the area after completion of fifteen days”.
While talking to The Kashmir Walla, Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Syed Yasir, said that the Rakhs and farms have claimed that the land was allotted to the tribals for cultivation purposes and over the period of time and that they are enquiring into the matter.
“As of now, no proceedings have taken place and the locals have been assured that no unilateral decision will take place till the matter is investigated,” he further said.