In a unique protest, the Gujjars and Bakkerwals on Tuesday tried to push in their livestock insidethe official residence of Forest Minister,Choudhary Lal Singh.
According to the nomad community, they were protesting against the minister and the department for “selectively” evicting Gujjars from a particular community from the forest land.
The community members came from peripheral areas alongwith their livestock and assembled outside the residence of Lal Singh this morning, surprising the police and paramilitary personnel who were on guard.
The situation turned tense when the nomads tried to push in their livestock into the residence of Lal Singh. Police swung into action creating panic in the area, eyewitnesses said.
Led by Gujjar student leader Talib Hussain, the nomads including women laid a dharna outside the residence of Lal Singh and criticized his policy of “evicting nomads while denying their rights on forest”.
“Our temporary sheds were dismantled by the forest department in various area and our family members including children and women were left with no shelter. We have never damaged the forests but we always protect the green gold on which our livestock is also dependent,” he added.
When the demonstration was on, eyewitnesses said, large contingent of police led by senior police officials rushed to the spot and tried to convince the protesting nomads.
As the demonstration continued, the police baton charged the protesters forcing them to disperse.
Seven protestors were detained by the police team from Gandhi Nagar and were let off on bail later on, police said.
During the melee, an elderly woman fainted and fell down in a lane when police was chasing away group of protesters.
The woman picked up by his son while large number of locals.
Later on while talking to Rising Kashmir,RafaqatAijaz, a Gujjar leader, said three days ago officials from Forest Department allegedly took away theirhousehold items, ration, four horse and several goats from eight nomadic families who had established temporary sheds in Janipur area.
“These families were rendered homeless.The selective eviction of the communityby the Forest Department has forced the nomads out of forests,” he added.
“Nomads who protect forests are being targeted only with communal approach,” he alleged.
Similarly, he said, eight kacha houses were set on fire by some miscreants allegedly backed by the administration at Rajpura area. “They were living on a state land which was sold to them by some locals for Rs 10 lakhs. Their houses were set on fire and they were made homeless without any reason,” he said while pointing out communal approach towards the nomads.
Pertinently, Forest Department is being criticized in Jammu for its alleged selective approach with regard anti-encroachment drive where nomads were removed from there.
A senior police officer, wishing not to be quoted, told Rising Kashmir that they have set free all seven arrested persons from police custody on bail this evening.
Condemning the l use of force on Gujjars, Provincial Secretary Youth National Conference Jammu Province has lashed out on police department for cane charging on peaceful protestors.
In a statement, Provincial Secretary said that the “time has come when everybody belonging to this community join hands to protest against the atrocities being committed on gujjars throughout the State.
“Gujjars have always been called as Symbols of Nationalism and patriotism as they always talked in the national interest.”
Rana said that this Government has ignored them and now instead of making any policy for their permanent settlement, “this government is continuously harassing them”.