Muheet ul Islam
SRINAGAR: At least 20 families of the boatmen community were forced to spend a night under open sky after the state authorities demolished their tin-sheds in Parimpora truck-yard on Monday afternoon.
While collecting their belongings from the demolished sheds, the residents said that a heavy contingent of police and paramilitary forces arrived in the truck yard and razed their makeshift dwellings.
They alleged that authorities did not provide them any time to take out their belongings. “They (demolition squad) did not give us time to save belongings. It appeared that they have come for an encounter with militants,” a local resident said adding the police used batons to chase away the residents when they attempted to stage a protest demonstration.
The state government had shifted 19 families from Bemina Hajj House to Parimpora after devastating floods of September 2014 hit the area. The arrangement was temporary and the residents were promised to rehabilitate them under a centrally sponsored scheme that offers a piece of land to the people who don’t own any house.
“The promises remained unfulfilled. We are living life of nomads. Every time we are shifted from one place to another,” 25-year-old Mohammad Haseeb told Kashmir Reader. “The moment we start believing this and that place is going to be our permanent residence, government officials from nowhere appear and ask us to vacate the place,” he rued.
Lateef Ahmad Mandoo, President of the Baighar Colony, said that it was around 1989 that the entire boatmen community was asked to move from waters to land in order to conserve the water bodies. “Jammu and Kashmir government has been promising us rehabilitation under Indira Awaas Yojana right from 1996 but we have not seen any promise being fulfilled so far,” he said. The central scheme has now been rechristened as Prime Ministr Awas Yojna but the beneficiaries’ woes have not ended, he said.
Mandoo said the government is now offering them rehabilitation from truck-yard in Parimpora to Samerbugh in district Budgam but there is no firm commitment in this regard. “We are ready to move from here to Samerbugh but we want a written approval from the state government,” he said.
Mandoo added that there is also a dispute regarding the allotment of land as government is committed to provide only 2 marlas of land to each family. “There are more than 5 members in every family and most of them are supposed to get married in a couple of years,” he said adding, “I request all the ministers and concerned officials to look at the size of their bathrooms and then take a wise decision while deciding how much space we require.”
The demolition drive in Parimpora comes within a week after Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan chaired the meeting to review the action plan for shifting General Bus Stand Batamaloo to Parimpora in July to ease traffic congestion.
Khan was available to comment on the demolition drive.