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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Forester alleges ‘assault’ by Minister’s PA over eviction drive

Forest Minister: ‘Nobody can stop our eviction drive. We are soon proceeding against ex-Ministers and bureaucrats who have grabbed forest land’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 27: While complaining that a Minister’s private assistant provoked the people and obstructed the Forest Department’s drive to retrieve 400 kanals of the forest land  in Pulwama district, a Forester on Friday filed a complaint for registration of FIR against the Minister’s aide who, in turn, claimed that FIR of molestation was being filed against the official.

The incident of altercation was received from Nichen Dajan village of Sangarwani range of Pulwama district where Forest Department has launched a major drive of eviction to retrieve 400 kanals of its demarcated land that has been grabbed and encroached upon by the residents in the last several decades.

“I was on the job with about 20 officials and labourers. We were fencing the land already demarcated. Suddenly one Junaid Ahmad Lone, who is said to be Finance Minister’s PA, reached there with a Police posse. He provoked the people for an assault on us and on his instigation they looted our posts and pillars. Some of them were damaged. Junaid Sahab abused me. He hurled abuses on PCCF and DFO and slapped me when I refused to take his order to stop the eviction drive. He tore off my uniform and left me injured”, Forester Mohammad Kabir complained.

Kabir later approached Police Station Rajpora and lodged a complaint, seeking registration of FIR with the charges of assault on a public servant and obstructing him from discharging his duty.

Junaid Ahmad Lone, on the contrary, claimed that he did not lead or carry out any assault on Kabir or any other Forest official.

“For the last 20 days, residents approached Finance Minister and MLA Rajpora (Haseeb Drabu) with the request that there should be some relief and concession to those who had this land in their possession without question from Forest Department for decades. They pleaded that they had their houses and orchards on this land since long. We requested DC Pulwama and DFO Shopian to suspend the drive till there was some reconciliation with the people. On my Minister’s direction, I visited the spot in the company of a Police party and just requested them to suspend the drive till DC and DFO arrive on the spot. They didn’t listen to us and we went back”, Junaid told STATE TIMES.

Junaid attributed political motives to Kabir’s complaint and pointed out that he was a neighbour and relative of the Opposition National Conference’s defeated candidate and former Minister Ghulam Mohiuddin Mir of Muran. He claimed that in fact a number of women after today’s incident lodged a complaint of molestation against the same Forest official.

Minister incharge Forest Bali Bhagat asserted that “nobody on earth” could stop his department’s eviction drive and that it would be carried on with more intensity and force from tomorrow. “The Minister’s PRO has done hooliganism and it will not be tolerated. I have directed my department to file FIR against him and action will follow under law. I have been told that the FIR has been registered”, Mr Bhagat told STATE TIMES on telephone from New Delhi.

“We have already retrieved 14,000 kanals of the grabbed forest land. We are now identifying the former Ministers, politicians and bureaucrats who have grabbed the forest land and we are soon proceeding against them. Nobody is going to stop this drive”, Mr Bhagat asserted.

DFO Shopian Feroz Ahmad Chaket said that his Range Officer Nawab Ahmad Magray reached the spot within 15 minutes. DFO himself reached there in about one hour. He dismissed Junaid’s version as a “concocted story” and said that “not a single man or woman” approached them with a complaint of assault or molestation against any Forest official. He said that after Kabir got first aid, he was directed by higher ups to lodge a complaint with the Police.

Conservator of South Circle Syed Farooq Gilani as well as DFO Shopian Feroz Ahmad Chaket asserted that there was “absolutely no dispute” on title or ownership of the land being vacated in that area. “Forest land is properly demarcated and our demarcation posts are intact since decades. We are retrieving the same land and fencing it for a CAMPA closure. We have clear-cut instructions from CM’s Secretariat and Forest Minister to retrieve the grabbed forest land at any cost and not to succumb to pressure from any quarter”, Conservator Gilani told STATE TIMES.

DFO said that his staff resumed the eviction drive immediately after the “assault” on the Forester. “We can’t suspend our drive as there is no dispute over the title. Besides, snowfall can take place any time”, DFO asserted.

Gilani added that his department had already made it clear that the land with old residential houses would be touched in the secondary phase. “As of now, we are only clearing the land converted into orchards and encroached in recent past. Entire grabbed land in Compartment No: 24 falls in that category and shall be got cleared of all encroachments. We have already retrieved 300 of the 400 kanals of it”, Gilani said.


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