Residents aghast with demolition drives in Hajin, officials say will retrieve land “at any cost”

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Residents of Shahgund village in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district have alleged that they are being “harassed and threatened” by the Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat over demolition of houses.

“Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat asks us to vacate the house where we have been residing for the last many years,” Habibullah Dar, a local resident, told The Kashmir Walla. “I have been born and brought up in this house.”

The Dar family said that Tehsildar Bhat has ordered them to vacate their home before 10 February, following which the Revenue Department will forcibly raze down the building and even threatened them with arrest.

Moreover, the residents claim that the tehsildar has also warned that they will have to pay demolition fees for failing to vacate the property on time. “The Tehsildar has consistently visited our village, threatening to start a demolition drive,” said Habibullah.

Habibullah claimed that the land currently in his possession was in-fact allotted to him as per a rehabilitation offer after the government took over his family land. “Our previous land was milkiyat [title] and now unfortunately the same government is forcing us to vacate it,” he said.

He, however, added that the government had not issued papers for the allotted lands.

Another resident of Shahgund, Fayaz Ahmad Dar, not related to Habibullah, alleged that Tehsildar Bhat “summoned us to his office and behaved rudely. On Friday prayers we heard the masjid’s imam speaking about demolition of our houses.”

Fayaz added: “The Tehsildar has asked the imams to deliver a note on the demolition… We have not murdered anyone we are simply living on our own land.”

Waseem Ahmad Parray, the local Pathwari, denied that the demolition drive was aimed at residential properties and maintained that notices were legally issued. “This is not the first time we have started a demolition drive,” he said. “Earlier drives were also carried out in Kosam Bagh, Madvan, Hkbara, Hajin, Vijpora, Kathpora, Khumina and other villages in Hajin block.”

When contacted, Bhat said that the administration has started a drive throughout J-K. “I have to follow the rules and regulations and we have started a drive against the people who have encroached the government land illegally and settled their houses,” he said. “We found some cases who have encroached government land and now the government has taken a step to [retrieve] it.”

Bhat said that demolitions were carried out in other villages already and accused local residents of encroaching government land to legally build residential and commercial properties. “We have to bring the land back from them at any cost and we are not leaving anyone,” Bhat asserted, adding that he wasn’t concerned with rehabilitation of the affected. “The government will deal with it and I don’t have any concerns with it. That is not in my domain.”

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