Gujjars seek implementation of Forest Rights Act to enjoy rights on forest land in J&K
SRINAGAR, Nov 14: Authorities have launched an eviction drive to retrieve “encroached” forest land in various parts of Kashmir including in Pahalgam. At the same time, Gujjars have been seeking implementation of Forest Rights Act in J&K so that they can enjoy rights on forest land.
On December 18, 2006, parliament passed Forest Right Act- 2006 whereby the Schedule Tribe and other traditional forest dwellers were entitled to have rights on forest land and other resources.
The Act could not be implemented as Jammu and Kashmir had Article 370 owing to which central laws were not being directly implemented in the erstwhile state.
Tribal and forest dwellers have been demanding extension of the Act to J&K so that they too can enjoy “rights” on the forest land.
For the last few weeks, Wild Life Department, Forest Department Pahalgam Development Authority have served hundreds of eviction notices to people which they claim were illegally residing there.
Kabir Shah, a resident of Batakote, said he received eviction notice last week.
“The land belongs to our and we have been living here for more than 80 years. But we are being forcibly to evict from here,” he told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).
Hundreds of people especially Gujjars and Bakarwals have received eviction notices for the last two weeks citing “illegal encroachment” of the land.
Social activist Irshad Ahmad Khatana said hundreds of people have received eviction notices for last two weeks.
“We are living on this land since years and have proper documents. Despite that Gujjars and Bakarwals are being forcibly evicted from forest land in Pahalgam,” he said.
State President J&K Gujjar Bakerwal Youth Conference Zahid Parvaz Chowdhary nothing has been done to implement Forest Rights Act in Jammu and Kashmir, which is already in place across the country. “Gujjars are being deliberately evicted from forest land,” Chowdhary told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).
Under this Act, forest dwellers can cultivate land to a maximum of four hectares and have rights on the minor forest produce. Former PDP legislator, Qamar Hussain, had moved a bill to the Assembly, seeking implementation of the Forest Right Act.
However, the BJP had opposed the bill.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), PDA Mushtaq Ahmad Simnani said they are retrieving land which has been illegally encroached over the years.
“Some people including Gujjars had encroached upon forest land. We removed the encroachments. We did delimitation in Pahalgam to identify our land then removed these illegal encroachments,” Simnani told news agency KINS.
“We evicted around 190 kanals of land in Mamal, Aru area and will continue this drive. Forest, Wild Life Departments also retrieved their land,” he said.
SDM Pahalgam Bashir Ahmad said they have retrieved hundreds of kanals of land from encroachers in Pahalgam.