The Jammu and Kashmir administration seems to be more interested in humiliating people than retrieving state land from encroachers, People’s Conference chief Sajad Gani Lone said on Monday.
“There is not a single day when videos of poor people being targeted for demolition are not coming in while the L-G is saying the poor will not be touched. Either the L-G Office is telling lies or the videos are fake. (The) question is whether they want to retrieve the land or humiliate the people. It seems that humiliation is more important,” Lone said at a press conference in Srinagar.
A former minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government, Lone said Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and should be treated on a par with the rest of the country.
“Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India, they should follow here what they are doing elsewhere. Are they retrieving land in the rest of the country?” he asked.
Lone, once seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also questioned the BJP-led Centre’s claims of inclusiveness. “I thought the PM is of everyone. But (it seems) 95 per cent encroachers are Muslims. Who is my PM, who is the PM of the poor?” he asked.
Lone, however, said he would not meet the Prime Minister on the issue. The People’s Conference president said Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and a few officers, who do not even belong to Jammu and Kashmir, cannot take decisions on behalf of its people.
“The L-G cannot take decisions on behalf of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The decisions are taken by a cabal of a few officers who are here as tourists. They will leave and we will have to bear the aftermath,” he added.
Governments across the globe work towards eradicating homelessness but “here we have a new model of economics where homelessness is being invented”, he alleged. “Only poor people will be affected. I am making this prediction that the rich will hire a lawyer and get back their lands,” Lone added.
Jammu and Kashmir has gone through a prolonged period of turmoil and the government should not disrupt people’s lives, Lone said. “I do not know how they can win the hearts of people by demolishing their houses,” he said.
Lone claimed that he had a list of people who grabbed huge tracts of land — some in Jammu and some in Kashmir — and alleged “not even a notice has been issued to them”. Asked about the next course of action if the demolition drive continued, Lone said he would sit on a hunger strike in Delhi.
Meanwhile, in a related development, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has alleged that Jammu and Kashmir has been turned into Afghanistan by the BJP, which is using bulldozers to demolish the homes of the poor and the marginalised under the ongoing anti-encroachment drive,
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Monday itself, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief appealed to Opposition leaders in the country not to be a mute spectator to the “atrocities being committed by the BJP”. She alleged that the BJP is using its brute majority to weaponize everything and “bulldoze” the Constitution.
“Palestine is still better. At least people talk. Kashmir is becoming worse than Afghanistan the way bulldozers are being used to demolish homes of people. What is the purpose of demolishing small houses of people?” she said.
Mehbooba said that according to the government, even the centuries-old Shankaracharya Temple and cantonment built by the erstwhile Maharaja are on encroached land.
The PDP leader said Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha may claim that the houses of the poor will not be touched during the anti-encroachment drive but his message is not being heard on the ground as dwellings with even tin sheds are being demolished.
She said the initial call for ‘Ek Samvidhan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan’ has given way to ‘one country, one language, one religion’ where there is no Constitution. The voice of anyone speaking about the Constitution is being crushed, she said.
“Was the removal of Article 370 in accordance with Constitutional provisions?” she asked.