SRINAGAR: Civil society group Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS) Tuesday extended support to the Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF) in its fight for relocation of the firing range at Tosmaidan in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
A press statement issued here by TBF said a daylong protest programme was held at Shinglipora village in the district as part of the ongoing campaign against possible extension in the lease. Besides the locals, the programme was attended by the members of KCSDS including Prof Hameeda Nayeem, Zarief Ahamd Zarief, Z G Muhammad, Abdul Majeed Zargar, Shakeel Qalander, and Qurat-ul-Ain, the statement said.
“They addressed the gathering and supported our campaign against the lease extension,” the statement said.
While noted poet Zareef Ahmad Zareef said the area shouldn’t have been made into a firing range, Hameeda Nayeem said “I feel sorry for the people of the area who have lived 50 years in terror,” it said.
Shakeel Qalander appreciated the efforts of TBF and said the civil society would fight for environment alongside its fight for return of power projects, it said.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool of TBF has said:
“We want to remind the government that the lease period is expiring soon. If the lease isn’t ended, we will go for an intensified agitation.”
The row over Tosmaidan firing range has been catching pace in the recent week with the residents of Budgam intensifying their agitation.
Under a 1964 lease agreement between state government and the Army, the picturesque 11,200 hectare meadow has been serving as an artillery training ground for the Indian Army. However, as expiry of the lease deed is drawing near, the civilian populace of the district, under the banner of TBF, has been up in arms, opposing the possible extension of the deed.
The civilians have been demanding relocation of the firing range and subsequent conversion of Tosmaidan into a tourist destination. The resentment from public forced the government to set up a high level committee for deciding on whether to extend the lease.
So far, however, the committee’s activities have been kept out of the public knowledge, prompting the people to intensify their agitation. They have already started a large scale awareness campaign to gain more support to their agitation, besides threatening a boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and mass resignation of Panchayat members.