Forest Dept’s Eviction Drive Turns Violent In Shopian

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5 Journalists, 13 Others Wounded During Clashes

Srinagar: Five journalists were among 18 people injured on Monday during violent protests triggered by a drive by the forest department officials to evict nomads from a forest area in the upper reaches of Shopian district.

According to the reports, a team of forest department officials on Monday visited Zampathri forest area of the district to evict the members of Gujjar community who were staying in temporary sheds. However, the drive, reports said was met with stiff resistance by the Gujjar nomads who maintained that they had erected temporary sheds for living and to graze their cattle.

The members of Gujjar community also questioned the drive saying that no government official served them a notice in advance asking them to evict the area.

They also alleged that the officials started beating men and women while carrying out the eviction drive, injuring three people including two women.

However, forest officials said that once the eviction drive was started, the people from the Gujjar community assembled and made officials as well as journalists’ hostage in a fenced area of PHE.

Officials said that at least 10 forest employees and five journalists were injured during the resistance by the Gujjar community.

The journalists who received minor injuries include Aijaz Ahmad Dar (Zee news), Irshad Ahmad (News18), Shahid Tak (ETV Bharat), Nazir Wani (Punjab Kesari) and Firdous Ahmad (News Nation).

District Forest Officer (DFO), Mohammad Ayoub said that the people from the Gujjar community attacked them during a routine eviction drive.

He said that the community was already asked to prove their claim if land belonged to them, however, they failed and accordingly the drive was started.

Ayoub said that besides officials, the journalists who had come to cover the drive, were taken hostage and were rescued by the timely action of the police.

He said that they have sought an FIR against the community in this regard. (With agency inputs)

Mehbooba Alleges Persecution

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday accused the Jammu and Kashmir administration of persecuting members of the Gujjar-Bakerwal communities by evicting them from forest areas.

Her remarks came after reports claimed that an eviction drive by the forest department in the upper reaches of the Zampathri area of South Kashmir’s Shopian district turned violent after resistance by the communities’ members.

“A Gujjar from Kellar in Shopian was beaten to pulp by the forest department. On one hand this administration makes tall claims about the implementation of Forest Rights Act while at the same time they continue to hound and persecute these communities, the PDP chief tweeted.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister also posted on Twitter a video of a member of the community claiming he was beaten up by forest department personnel.

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