Kashmir Mainstream Camp Slams Land Transfer To Army

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Srinagar- Several mainstream parties, including National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday slammed government’s move to allot a huge chunk of land to armed forces in the twin tourist resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam.

The PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday claimed allocation of huge tracts of land to the armed forces in tourist areas of Jammu and Kashmir confirmed the intention of the Centre to "convert Jammu & Kashmir into a military garrison".

The former chief minister was reacting to the Jammu & Kashmir government's decision to declare 1358 kanals and 6 marlas of land as “strategic areas” for training and operational requirements of the armed forces in Gulmarg and Sonamarg tourist resorts in Kashmir Valley.

"Allocating thousands of kanals to armed forces that too in tourist areas confirms GOIs intention to convert J&K into a military garrison. Under the 'state land' pretext, our land is up for grabs & to add insult to injury locals are being evicted from their homes," Mehbooba tweeted.

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference also denounced the allocation of 1034 Kanals of land to the Army under ‘Strategic Areas Act’ in the Valley’s tourist resorts.

This was said by the Party General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar while taking to media at Nawa e Subah. "Our reservations about the 'strategic areas act' are evidenced by this reckless land transfer. We had contended that the act will be used arbitrarily to grab civilian, tourist and other mineral resources rich areas. The recent transfer order substantiates our detestation for the act," he said.

Criticising the measure, Sagar said that the constitutional propriety demanded to halt any such decisions because such decisions are a consequence of August 5,2019 decisions, which are constitutionally suspect and awaiting the due validation from the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India. He argued that by taking such measures, the government was anticipating the verdict of the Supreme Court.

Despite India's climate pledges, Sagar stated, GoI is diverting more forest land to the armed forces. "Ever since Article 370 was read down and the Union government took charge of the erstwhile states, 250 hectares of ecologically fragile land have been diverted for non-forestry purposes. This stands in stark contrast to the pledge taken by India at the recent COP26 climate summit to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the country’s forest cover," he added.

He contended that such wanton land transfers will make the tourist heavens Gulmarg and Sonmarg wear a ‘battle zone’ look. “Continuous movement of army traffic will also have a far reaching impact on the local tourism activities in the shape of curbs. We hope that the government will review such a reckless decision. Putting our land and resources for grabs and sale on one pretext on another is akin to adding insult to our injuries,” he added

Meanwhile, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousaf Tarigami has asked the government to review the decision to declare land in Gulmarg, Sonamarg as “strategic areas”

"These are two most popular tourist destinations in the valley,” the PAGD spokesperson said remarking further there were already a lot of areas with the army for such purposes."

Gulmarg and Sonamarg along with Pahalgam are three most popular tourist destinations in the Valley which need to be promoted for tourism purposes, Tarigami said underlining need of the hour is to develop tourism infrastructure in Kashmir which can generate employment for burgeoning numbers of unemployed youths.

"So-called real estate development by the government can’t generate employment or create livelihood opportunities, but are only meant for giving benefits to the corporate sector", Tarigami said in a statement.

"We hope that the government will review its decision and focus on developing tourism in Gulmarg, Sonamarg and other tourist destinations", Tarigami said.

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