SRINAGAR: The Indian Army has been forcing scores of people of Khundru in occupied Kashmir’s Islamabad district to handover their land to them for expansion of the Khundru ammunition depot, according to the residents. The residents told Greater Kashmir that Army was asking them to handover over 500 hectares (more than 10,000 kanals) of their land for expanding the ammunition depot, which caused huge destruction of life and property after it caught fire in August.
“Though thousands of kanals of our land are already under Amy occupation since the establishment of the depot in 1947, Army is now asking us for more land on lease to expand the ammo depot and construction some other establishments,” said a group of people belonging to a local Joint Action Committee at Khundru. They said the Army was adopting “different tactics” to acquire the land, which costs crores of rupees. The Army, they added, recently held a meeting under “Operation Sadhbhavna (goodwill)” in which some locals were asked to participate. “It was in that meeting that Army sought our cooperation in handing over the land,” said Haji Sheikh Abdul Gaffar, Haji Muhammad Sultan, Haji Abdus Salam and Haji Peer Atiqullah—the residents of Khundru. The Army, they said, was approaching them with “lucrative offers” to hand over the land.
The Army’s Srinagar-based spokesman Col A K Mathur admitted that some Army officials had asked the residents about the land rates. He, however, said that Army “doesn’t approach people directly when it comes to acquiring land. It’s the state government that approaches people after Army proposes the land acquisition.“But people’s willingness has to be taken first,” Mathur told Greater Kashmir. But the people of Khundru have a different take on the issue. “The Army is asking us to agree to the proposal as and when it comes up,” they said, adding, “If our land is snatched, we’ll be forced to take to streets.”
They said the state government promised them that the ammo depot would be shifted in the wake of destruction it caused in the August 11 blaze. “Army’s acquiring of more land will render nearly 200 families landless,” the residents said. “The land they plan to acquire is the agricultural land, which is the basic source of livelihood for people.” They said the worst-hit villages would be Khundroo, Sombruna, Pahloo, Oggibalan, Nowgam, Andoo, Pushroo, Kotheir and Shangus where people earn their livelihood mainly through farming.The Joint Action Committee is now planning to seek Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s intervention in the matter. “We’ll ask him to come to our rescue,” said a spokesman of the committee.-SANA