Sringar: Over a dozen families from the tribal Gujjars and Bakkerwals have been staging a sit-in protest at Roop Nagar where a government drive had ordered the demolition of their homes an NDTV report revealed.
The Jammu Development Authority (JDA) claimed that the tribal houses were built on government land but conceded that they had been there for decades, almost 70 years according to the families themselves. The Gujjars and Bakkerwals have accused the Jammu Development Authority of selective action.
"They have been deprived only because they are poor people and no one listens to them. If there was rule of law, the government would have served them notice before demolition. Also there is status quo order by additional sessions judge till March, but JDA didn't care two hoots," said Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad, who represents the families as a lawyer in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
"We are fighting for their right to have a shelter and also a shelter for livestock. It's a right given by our constitution...They are not encroachers or land grabbers," said Satvir Singh Manhas, a social activist, to NDTV.
National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah on Friday accused the Jammu and Kashmir administration of targeting the Gujjar and Bakarwal tribals at the behest of its political masters.
"The government has been selective in its demolition drive, targeting only Gujjar Bakarwal families in Jammu. The presence of these families has always irked the BJP & clearly the administration is targeting the Gujjars & Bakarwals at the behest of their political masters," Omar tweeted.
Hasnain Masoodie Member of Parliament for the NC from Anantnag also condemned the anti-encroachment demolition drive and hit out at the ruling BJP, accusing it of discriminating against the ST community in Jammu.
He said that while the Centre boasts of having in 2020 regularised 1,731 illegal colonies in Delhi under PM-UDAY and claimed to have set up an efficient and hassle-free mechanism of providing ownership papers to thousands of beneficiaries, the Jammu and Kashmir administration "orders selective demolition when it comes to ST population of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the JDA was functioning under the "caprice" of a few individuals with no respect for the law and that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who stated that affordable housing for all would be available by 2024, should pay attention when the "poorest of the poor" had their shelter and livelihoods stripped from them.