JAMMU, Feb 8: Democratic Azad Party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday cautioned the Jammu and Kashmir administration against its ongoing anti-encroachment drive, saying the ‘hartal and stone-pelting' culture is likely to return if homes and small shops are demolished.
The eviction drive has resulted in corruption as people were paying bribes to revenue officials to ensure their names do not feature among those who have encroached on state land, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir alleged. Azad thanked Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for their assurances of not harming the poor population, but demanded that an official order should be issued to provide relief to the distressed people. “The government has done certain good things like ending the culture of hartal and stone-pelting (in Kashmir). It is a positive thing which has happened, but if they start demolishing homes and small shops, there is a likelihood that hartals and stone-pelting will return and the government itself will be responsible for it,” the DAP chief said here. He said the government should not do anything which will end up spreading negativity as lakhs of people have been served notices asking them to vacate their homes and wind up their businesses. “Earlier, the people were responsible for hartals and stone-pelting but now, if the same thing happens again, the government will be directly responsible. The government must encash on positivity rather than spreading negativity,” Azad said.
He also suggested that the government should stop the drive as it is a loss for it as well as the poor. “I am not speaking for big land owners, businessmen, politicians or thieves (land grabbers). If this drive is stopped, 98 per cent (of the poor) will be benefited. My only aim is that the homes of the poor and their small businesses remain intact so that they can earn their livelihood in a peaceful atmosphere,” Azad said. The DAP leader said the government should take a decision immediately in the interest of peace and issue an order to put an end to the eviction drive against the poor. “The drive has also generated corruption. Patwaris, tehsildars and other revenue officials are taking bribes from people to ensure that their names are not listed (among the encroachers). It (revenue department) has become a den of corruption,” he alleged. On allegations that the drive was discriminatory and those associated with the BJP were not touched, Azad said, “Anyone who has done wrong, whether he is from BJP, Congress, NC, PDP or Apni Party, should face the law.” “Harassing the public or indulging in pick and choose will go against the government. It will create disharmony and the situation is bound to return to the likes of the 1990s,” he said. “Elections (assembly) have not taken place for a very long time, unemployment is on the rise and inflation has skyrocketed. We need to provide such an atmosphere where people can breathe easy but they are having sleepless nights in their own country,” Azad added.