Villagers struggle to save only playground in Rafiabad

Villagers struggle to save only playground in Rafiabad

Baramulla: Only playground in Gundmulrag village of Rafiabad in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district has been encroached upon from all sides as the villagers have been fighting to save the remaining patch of land for future generations.
Talking to Kashmir Reader, the local residents said that the playground has been reduced from 46.5 kanals to mere 19 kanals as encroachers have eaten into the open land from all sides. “Children and youth from five villages use to play various games in this ground. But encroachers have been raising illegal structures on this open land and administration has failed to stop them,” they said.
According to Abdul Rashid Dar, Headman of this area, this issue has been pending since 1988 when some people tried to construct illegal structures on it. “We at that time resisted the move but had to pay for it. Instead of taking action against the encroachers, an FIR was registered against us. They used their political connections to influence police and harass us,” he said.
“We have only this land where government can plan different things like a health centre or a school in future.  But people have built cattle sheds and others structures on this land which is an open encroachment,” Dar said.
Dar recalled that in 1996, when it became difficult for villagers to accept this encroachment, they started protesting against it.  “But we were shocked to see that police booked four of our people in a fresh FIR as if the old one registered in 1989 was not enough,” Dar added. He alleged that the encroachers were backed by an ex-MLA of the area.
Irked by the fresh encroachments, a delegation from the village met District Development Commissioner,  Baramulla recently and apprised her of the whole situation.  DC directed the concerned SDM to take action against encroachers on the playground. After this SDM Sopore visited the place and directed Tehsildar of the area to start anti-encroachment drive within fifteen days. A legal notice was also served to the encroachers to vacate the land in 15 days. But till date not a single encroachment has been removed.
“Ironically, instead of stopping the encroachers, the municipal officer of the area recently built a road on a part of the land. No one from the area was allowed to enter the area as the workers were backed by police,” Dar said.
SDM Sopore, Bashir Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that he was working on this issue and has directed the Tehsildar to start an extensive drive against encroachments. When asked about the recent construction of a road, SDM said that though the work has been stopped but the municipal office was not bound to seek approval from his office.
Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla did not respond to calls made by this correspondent.

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