JAMMU: The attempt by vocal members of Gujjar community to stall the initiation of prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Jammu should not be seen in isolation. The brazen attempt is manifestation of the appeasement by successive Kashmir centric governments, which has emboldened the nomads to play not only with legitimate interests of Jammu but also change its demography.
But for the imposition of Governor’s Rule, the project could not have taken off, especially in the wake of today’s volatile reaction of the Gujjars because of the long rope given by Mehbooba Mufti led government barely two months ago by issuing most controversial minutes of a meeting held under the aegis of the so-called Tribal Affairs Department (TAD). If the minutes could be so sweeping and illegal in the eyes of law, what would have been the instructions passed by the then Chief Minister during the meeting itself. The minutes, inter-allia, directed the IGP Jammu and all the Deputy Commissioners not to provide any police protection for eviction of tribals without the approval obtained from TAD; till a formal tribal policy is formulated and issued, tribal population shall not be disturbed or dislocated; in case it becomes absolutely necessary to dislocate any member or family of tribal population, the same should be done in prior consultation with the TAD; and, given the misuse of Section 188 RPC and Animal Cruelty Act against the tribals in a situation when animal rearing is their profession and they are required to transport their animals from one place to another, they (officers) should take due care while dealing with such cases.
By virtue of these minutes, the police posse seen in the video, which has gone viral across the Jammu region, could not be there to thwart the attempt of Gujjars. The police had to seek the orders via Tribal Affairs Department to deal with otherwise normal law and order situation. One wonders why these minutes have not been rescinded during the fortnight long gubernatorial rule in the State. The inaction speaks volumes about presence of dubious elements in the State administration, which are hell bent to inflict thousand cuts to Jammu psyche.
A segment of Gujjars is a most pampered lot. They have been instrumental in subtle advance of the path of Jammu’s Duggar demography. True, the nomads have a natural rights on the forest land for grazing their cattle but how come the temporary settlers have been ‘selling their temporary places of habitation’ on mere ‘Agreement to sell’ deeds before embarking on new pastures in the close vicinity, which too becomes extended housing colonies in posh locales of the Jammu region. According to a rough estimate, over 50,000 palatial houses have come up on the erstwhile temporary habitations of the Gujjars near Jammu forests. These are not rehabilitated by the Gujjars but the well off people from the Kashmir Valley and residents of Doda, Poonch and Rajouri belts. Despite alarm raised by the Jammu intelligentsia the successive governments, including the one partnered by the BJP, have failed in bringing out a white paper on the genesis of elite colonies, having top officials and politicians as their residents.
The hypocrisy of mainstream and separatists got vehemently exposed when they did not speak a word over habitations like Sidhra and Bathindi in particular, which remain almost exclusive domain of a particular religion from a particular region. In this case, they don’t see any threat to demography but keep trumpeting Jammu’s great and glorious secular ethos to provide a cover to the illegal settlements. These Jammu based colonies have come up over forest land. Despite illegal status of these colonies, the NC and PDP have been showing immense degree of unity, solidarity and support for such of the encroachers who have carved out huge colonies by trampling all norms.
This is a typical mindset obtaining in a vocal segment of Kashmiri society-trumpeted by separatists and sustained by the so-called mainstream parties, whether in the government or outside. They conveniently ignore fast changing demographic landscape in Jammu in the wake of mushroom growth of colonies in a particular chunk of forest land. Added to the scenario is encroachment by Gujjars, which if resisted by the law enforcing agencies or the forest department is being officially condemned by political parties and dubbed as their harassment. In a systematic manner, the Kashmir centric State governments have been ensuring water and power supply besides other amenities in these colonies, instead of getting the land vacated from encroachers. The colonies are being rehabilitated with active support of various governmental agencies. To offset any criticism, the just ended government found it convenient to provide a cover to illegal activities by issuing directions to the police and civil administration. Jammu craves for attention, which has a strong prospect of being given in the present administration led by the Governor.
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