Sopore: After the CRPF 92 Battalion, the army is now refusing to vacate land belonging to Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology (SKUAST) in Sopore. The army unit which shifted here from Bomai in 2009 is occupying some 15 kanals of university land along with the police SOG of Baramulla district, which, too, has set up base here. Almost 300 kanals of university land, most of which has been designated by the government to build an Indian Veterinary Research Institute, continues to remain under the CRPF’s occupation.
The university authorities have been trying to get the land vacated for the past 20 years. According to former revenue numberdar of Wadoora, Haji Mohd Aslam Bhat, the land occupied by the CRPF was given by the government to construct an Indian Veterinary Research Institute but during the 90s, the Border Security Force’s 124 Battalion occupied 300 kanals of land in and around the university campus. After the BSF went away, the CRPF took over the land and is still there, budging not an inch in more than 20 years; instead, they have started to occupy adjacent land which belongs to local villagers.
“Our village popularly known as Amar Singh Garden was relatively calm and peaceful during the time of militancy and no forces were present here, but as soon as BSF stepped in, the whole demography of our village changed. Now you will find not just CRPF but also the army and SOG in our area, which has made the local villagers scared,” Bhat said.
Kashmir Reader has learnt through reliable sources that the CRPF has been dilly-dallying on moving to a new facility, which has been created for them in Police Lines Handwara. The said facility has been ready for the past three years.
A student of SKUAST who gave his surname as Khan said that he has been studying at the university for the past four years and the presence of military forces remains a threat to students’ safety. There are about 250 boys and more than 300 girls staying in hostels in the university campus. They are scared to go out during evening hours even if there is any emergency, Khan said.
“The government forces routinely come to our university to withdraw money from the ATM in the campus. We have protested many times against their presence but our demands seem to fall on deaf ears. We have only two to three guards for our security, which is not enough. Either the government forces should immediately withdraw or the university should provide more security to its students as we are scared to go out of the campus,” Khan said.
Zahoor Ahmad Baba, Dean of SKUAST, said that the presence of paramilitary forces in the immediate vicinity of the institution is a harassment in itself. “The land which is under CRPF is intended for setting up the IVRI institute. Even though the situation has improved in north Kashmir, the government forces are not ready to withdraw even after being provided a place in Handwara. The SKUAST has a major research facility and needs to interact with locals and study their livestock, but the presence of government forces hampers this,” he said.
The presence of additional troops of the army and police SOG, who came from Bomai after an episode in 2009 when two young men were gunned down by army troops at Bomai in Sopore town, has added to the nuisance and the fear in minds of students.
“In a number of attempts to have this land vacated, we contacted the District Commissioner and the army brigadier but nothing helped. The government has given them permission to occupy the land and that is why they are there. Recently, our honourable VC has told us to write again to the administration and he will discuss this issue with the DGP. Let’s see what the outcome is,” the Dean said.
SKAUST University was established in 1983 and there was a time when it was a premier agricultural university. Over the years of its decline, it has lost the faculties of forestry and horticulture.