SRINAGAR, May 25: Apni Party President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Tuesday strongly condemned the brutal and dastard acts of violence committed by the officials of the Department of Forest during an eviction drive in Zampathri-Shopian in which at least 18 persons were severely injured.
In a statement issued here, Bukhari termed the incident as extremely reprehensible while saying that such an eviction drive represents hooliganism and intimidation, wherein many individuals from Gujjar community have been beaten with sticks and batons.
“The images of this incident are too graphic and appear as if some rogue gangs have attacked these tribal people. This is sheer intimidation in the name of eviction from forest lands, as a similar approach had been adopted in Jammu as well, but now the focus has been shifted to Kashmir. I see taint in the motive and maybe there is some conspiracy spiraling up behind this episode,” he remarked.
He said that the seasonal migration of Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes to greener pastures and meadows has remained a continuous phenomenon for centuries, and it’s totally absurd to equate these people with forest land encroachers.
Bukhari reiterated that India is a democratic country wherein people are subject to the constitution and law, and not to the arbitrary actions that are carried out at the will of a bureaucratic set-up.
“We are living in a country that is run by law even the Supreme Court had ordered to carry out the evictions of illegal occupants but that too after proper investigations were carried out in a well-defined phased manner. The order actually protects the rights of such native dwellers who have lived in the forest ecosystem since ages. But, it’s against those groups who have illegally encroached on the forest land most of whom even don’t live there. That’s why the Supreme Court, while staying the eviction orders in 2019, said that “mighty and undeserving” will still be shown no mercy,” he observed.
Furthermore, he said that such actions show that the Forest Department is interpreting these orders in a willful discourse which contradicts its original intent but may serve the ulterior motives of a chosen lot.
“I would request Hon’ble Lt. Governor of J&K Shri Manoj Sinha ji for his immediate intervention into this matter of grave concern and also direct a high-level probe for this incident, so that a timely action is taken against those who abuse their authority. The Forest Department under this law was supposed to protect such ethnic groups & not to intimidate them. Such actions need to be condemned without any reservations,” he asserted.
He also assured that Apni Party is resolute in voicing the genuine concerns of Tribal people of J&K and shall always remain steadfast for safeguarding their rights over the forest land wherein they have lived on for generations.